ISU College of Design Students Create Functional Art for Manning

March 15, 2017, 9:54 am | Sandra Oberbroeckling

AMES, Iowa -- A new art gallery will be opening soon in Manning, Iowa. However, unlike traditional art galleries, Manning’s public art will be a type of “drive-through” exhibit along the Highway 141 corridor through town, as well as interactive art in the form of play equipment and park amenities.

The potential “street art” is the result of a collaboration between the city of Manning and students in Iowa State University College of Design’s Fall 2016 Design Studies 232 studio course focused on digital design communication.

This project was facilitated through the PLACE program in the College of Design. The PLACE program (Partnering Learning And Community Engagement) aims to enhance and promote the quality and character of Iowa’s communities. The ISU College of Design engages with communities in collaborative efforts to understand, envision and promote a fundamental enhancement of their physical environment.

Trestle Park SculptureManning has partnered with Iowa State a number of times, most recently participating in the Iowa’s Living Roadways 2016 Community Visioning program. The concepts proposed during the Community Visioning process are the basis for most of the public art designs created by the students.

The design studio, taught by architecture instructor Reinaldo Correa, is intended to improve students’ ability in multidimensional problem solving, digital communication skills and perceptual sensitivity. Correa drew on his experience in public art design to facilitate the partnership with Manning.

The students used digital media to analyze, research and design public works of art for the city. One highlight of the class for the students was a field trip to Manning in September 2016 to learn about the city, meet local leaders and see the town.

“One of the most meaningful parts of working on this project had to be actually interacting with the people of Manning,” said Brandon Lewis, senior in architecture. “Both the mayor and other members of the community were very passionate about making Manning great.”

Ron Reischl, Main Street Manning board president, has been instrumental in creating partnerships with Iowa State classes in the past. He has a good understanding of the benefits of working with students.

“The students appreciate and love the opportunity to work on a real-life problem, and they look forward to the chance of their designs being integrated into a real-life project,” Reischl said. “It’s hugely beneficial for both parties.”

In addition to the Highway 141 corridor, students also proposed public art in Trestle Park, a project that emerged through the Community Visioning process and is already under construction. A separate proposal from Manning requested ideas for a sign at Manning’s east entrance announcing the Carroll County Freedom Rock and the German Hausbarn.

Much of the artwork or projects students proposed was interactive, including a metal sculpture that incorporates monkey bars, a sculpture mimicking blowing grasses through which kids can walk, and a tree-like sculpture that catches the wind in its “leaves” as children spin it, merry-go-round style, to create natural music.

Students reported they worked harder on this project because it was a real-world situation, and for some students this was the first time they had worked on a project for an actual client.

“I was more motivated to work on this project since I knew it had further implications than just the classroom,” said H.D. Wille, a senior in interdisciplinary design who graduated in December 2016.

“This was my first real-life project and knowing that my design would potentially be built was very motivating for me,” design junior Lauren Kenny said. “I have never worked so hard on a project than I did for this one. I really wanted to design something for the community that would be beautiful for their new park as well as useful.”

Program coordinator Susan Erickson stressed that one of the greatest benefits of partnering with Iowa State and the PLACE program is experiencing the creativity and energy of the students.

“They can come to your town and see with fresh eyes, bringing new ideas to the places you look at every day,” said Erickson. “Nearly every community that partners with our studio classes has been delightfully surprised at the quality of work and the unique and creative ideas that our students produce.”

“Why should a community partner with College of Design classes?” Erickson asked. “Our students say it best.”

“For potential community partners, working with a class is an amazing opportunity for you. Here is a class of individual designers [who] are itching to create something new or fill a need,” said Wille. “Each one has a distinct personality and style that is expressed in their work. Take this chance and find more solutions to your objectives than you could ever dream.”

Communities or organizations interested in partnering with a class in the College of Design can contact Susan Erickson, the PLACE program coordinator, at

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