Murals and more in Downtown / Kingston Village / MedQuarter / Wellington Heights

Before “The Frame” was in its current location in New Bohemia, it was on the Cedar Lake trail framing Downtown Cedar Rapids.

Downtown Cedar Rapids loves a sculpture and sky high murals. There have been multiple public art initiatives that have increased the number of sculptures, and Downtown has some of the tallest buildings in the city as well as the skywalk system, so it makes sense that there is art to draw the eye up. Downtown is also home to part of the 3rd Street art trail, thanks to the nonprofit, Cedar Rapids Murals & More, and approval by the Visual Arts Commission (there is more art in this article than noted on the City of Cedar Rapids Public Art map).

Downtown Cedar Rapids includes Kingston Village, a relatively new branded district for the City (since 2013). Its name pays homage to a historical former 400-person town that occupied the site. Kingston Village has seen an uptick in investment as a new area of development that is adjacent to Downtown, much like New Bohemia — Czech Village.

MedQuarter Regional Medical District is another branded district in Downtown Cedar Rapids. It was established in 2011 thanks to a strategic partnership between the two major hospital systems to create a Medical Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District Commission. Most of the investment by MedQuarter is in land to develop medical facilities and parking lots/garages, but recently there has been an effort to create some quality of life spaces, such as a pocket park.

Wellington Heights is the neighborhood that borders Downtown and MedQuarter. Neighbors have led improvement and revitalization efforts in Wellington, rather than support from the Downtown or MedQuarter districts.

This is the third neighborhood in my Cedar Rapids “murals and more” series, and don’t worry, I included locations in case you want to check out these sights for yourself (#doitforthegram).

“Primary Vision” (2011) by Jun Kaneko outside of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (410 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

Primary Vision” is one of the most striking and visible pieces of public art in Cedar Rapids (and one of my favorites). The heads are in front of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and face Greene Square and the Cedar Rapids Public Library.

Forge-Stand-Rise” (August 26, 2020) created by Dale J. Merrill (Liberty Iron Works in Mount Vernon, IA) for the League of Women Voters of Linn County to commemorate the League’s 100th birthday and the passage of the 19th Amendment. The abstract sculpture is located on the Cedar River Trail between the railroad tracks / Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (410 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401) and a parking lot (318 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401).
“Rollic” (2016) by Bruce Beasley aka the spiral or spring in Greene Square (409–457 3rd Ave SE Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

“Rollic”, also called the spiral or spring, was installed in Greene Square, the oldest green space in the city, following its $1.9 million renovation. The $225,000 piece is quite large: 40-foot-long, 26-foot-wide, 20-foot-tall of brushed stainless steel. Here’s what Sean Ulmer, executive director of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, said about the statue: “This is something you can experience from all four sides as well as by walking through it. I think people will come to see it, and more than that, to experience it.”

“Regeneration” (2012–2013) by Albert Paley outside the Cedar Rapids Public Library (450 5th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

Another large scale piece (18 feet high and 30 feet long) that borders Greene Square is “Regeneration” in front of the Cedar Rapids Public Library. It reminds me of wavy books, which is fitting for this Library that was constructed following the devastating 2008 flood.

“Between Friends” (1992) by Ann Royer in front of the Hibu building (221 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This is my least favorite statue in Cedar Rapids. I find it unsettling as a piece of public art. It’s called “Between Friends”, and when you see this statue, you can tell that there is something different going on between these “friends” from every angle.

Untitled statue (1988) by Aroter across the street from Theatre Cedar Rapids (corner of 1st Ave E and 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)
Airplane statue (2003) in front of the the Alliant Energy building (200 1st St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This airplane appears to be the only remaining statue from the 39 designed airplanes from the “Fly Wright Just Plane Art” display that commemorated the 100-year anniversary of powered flight and the Wright Brothers. Orville and Wilbur Wright and their family lived in Cedar Rapids for about three years during the brothers’ childhood.

Note: This isn’t the only time that Cedar Rapids has been dappled with personalized designed statues. In 2016, 25 “American Gothic” fiberglass statues were scattered around the city in honor of artist Grant Wood’s 125th birthday.

“Rapids” (1999) by David Black between the Ground Transportation Center Parking Ramp and the Ground Transportation Center and in front of the Plaza 425 building (199 Tom Aller Way Cedar Rapids, Iowa).
“Skyblade” (1999) by Michael Maxson on the corner in front of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance building (501 1st St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401).

According to Skyblade’s nameplate, it was “To Celebrate the Sesquicentennial Art in Public Places”.

“Ricochet” (1971) by Robert W. Ellison on the Cedar River Trail behind the 531 1st St SE Parking lot (GreatAmerica Plaza — 625 1st St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

According to its nameplate, “Ricochet” was a gift from Renaissance Group Inc. to Cedar Rapids Art in Public Places of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation Visual Arts Commission in July 2000.

“Double Arcs” (2008) by Esther Randall on the Cedar River Trail between the Federal Courthouse (111 7th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401) and the GreatAmerica building (625 1st St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401).
“Tree of Five Seasons” (1996) by Gary Anderson on the Cedar River Trail (Five Seasons Plaza — 1st St NE and 1st Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 5201)

The City of Five Seasons slogan was first introduced in Cedar Rapids in 1968, and it and the logo was officially adopted by the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the city in 1975. For the official record, the fifth season is time to enjoy the other four or fun. According to residents and RAYGUN, the fifth season has a variety of other meanings and the city has five smells.

Mini Statue of Liberty (1950) on the 1st Ave Bridge across form the Veterans Memorial building (51 1st Ave Bridge, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401).

I love our little Lady Liberty and the fact that her torch faces the metal torch on the Veterans Memorial building. It was Cedar Rapids’ first statue (1950) thanks to the Boy Scouts’ “Strengthen the Arm of Liberty” campaign.

“Crystal Impression” (2013) by Randy Ford (dedicated to Tom and Jean Latka) off of the 3rd Ave Bridge (300 1st St SW Cedar Rapids, IA 52404) at the entrance for the McGrath Amphitheatre in Kingston Village.
“Freudian Slip” (2018) by Jamie Bolin at The Map Room (416 3rd St SE #8401, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

The Map Room has the best burgers and the best murals. “Freudian Slip” is my favorite mural in Cedar Rapids because it’s colorful, graphic, fun, and happy. It was painted during EntreFEST 2018 (Note: I work for the organization that produces this conference), so it’s extra meaningful and memorable to me.

You Are Here (2019) at The Map Room (416 3rd St SE #8401, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)
King Triton and Ariel hugging by Jashley on the back of the Hazzard County American Saloon building — accessible by the Cedar River Trail (402 2nd Ave SE Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)
Green wall at Benz Beverage Depot (501 7th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)
Pink wall and MedQuarter pocket park at Phong Lan (216 8th St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

Phong Lan has amazing and authentic Vietnamese food (try the pho!) and the cutest pink wall. MedQuarter took a break from building parking lots and medical pavilions and built this pocket park that borders Phong Lan.

“American Discovery Trail” mural (2019) by Ali Hval on the Third Avenue parking ramp overlooking Greene Square and the Cedar River Trail (320 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

The Cedar River Trail system that passes though downtown is part of the 6,800-mile American Discovery Trail, a national system of recreational trails and roads that stretches from coast-to-coast. This mural honors that connection and celebrates Cedar Rapids’ vibrant cycling community.

This colorful and quirky mural for the Bricks Bar & Grill patio (320 2nd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401) is visible from the adjacent parking garage.
CR Transportation (500 Stickle Dr NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402)
Seed to Sky” by Ruben Aguirre is a landscape abstraction inspired by the city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It is a mural on the side of a building (120 3rd Ave SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404) that houses Dash Coffee Roasters in Kingston Village.
This rainbow-colored house (2020) is on 8th Ave SW (near Kingston Village) had become known as a drug house and a drag on the neighborhood, but now is a symbol of welcome, inclusion and boldness, Eric Gutschmidt, owner of Gutschmidt Properties said.

Fun fact: Park Cedar Rapids, our city’s parking management company for Downtown Cedar Rapids, has been one of the biggest commissioners of Murals & More art in the city.

Starry night but make it rosy mural on the ground floor level entrance of the Ground Transportation Center Ramp (4th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)
Art “Superman” Pennington (2017) by Thomas Agran in the Convention Center Parking Ramp/Garage (361 1st Ave SE #301, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This mural series depicts under-celebrated and famous Cedar Rapidians and are featured in the same parking garage. Thomas Agran painted this series.

Art “Superman” Pennington
1923–2017
All-Star Negro Leagues baseball player and civil rights leader Art Pennington opened the Home Run Club in 1963 — the first fully racially integrated restaurant in Cedar Rapids. He once hit a grand slam home run off a pitch from Fidel Castro.

Also, this apartment building is named after Pennington.

Howard Hall (2017) by Thomas Agran in the Convention Center Parking Ramp/Garage (361 1st Ave SE #301, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This mural series depicts under-celebrated and famous Cedar Rapidians and are featured in the same parking garage. Thomas Agran painted this series.

Howard Hall
1894–1971
Successful businessman and generous philanthropist Howard Hall and his wife Margaret lived in the Brucemore mansion in Cedar Rapids, alongside a menagerie of pets including a succession of 3 lions, all named Leo.

Viola Gibson (2017) by Thomas Agran in the Convention Center Parking Ramp/Garage (361 1st Ave SE #301, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This mural series depicts under-celebrated and famous Cedar Rapidians and are featured in the same parking garage. Thomas Agran painted this series.

Viola Gibson
1905–1989
Founder of the Cedar Rapids chapter of the NAACP, Viola Gibson helped build Iowa support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and was instrumental in introducing black history to the Cedar Rapids school curriculum.

Viola Gibson Elementary School is her namesake, and she is the only woman eponym for the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

Edna Herbst (2017) by Thomas Agran in the Convention Center Parking Ramp/Garage (361 1st Ave SE #301, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This mural series depicts under-celebrated and famous Cedar Rapidians and are featured in the same parking garage. Thomas Agran painted this series.

Edna Herbst
1924–2003
A pioneer in broadcasting, Edna Herbst joined KCRG in Cedar Rapids in 1946 and introduced FM radio to eastern Iowa. She later rose to become the Vice President of KCRG.

George Nisson (2017) by Thomas Agran in the Convention Center Parking Ramp/Garage (361 1st Ave SE #301, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This mural series depicts under-celebrated and famous Cedar Rapidians and are featured in the same parking garage. Thomas Agran painted this series.

George Nissen
1914–2010
Washington High School graduate and NCAA gymnast George Nissen invented the modern trampoline. He helped found the Griswold-Nissen Trampoline & Tumbling Company in Cedar Rapids in 1941.

“Reanimate” (2016) by Eliezer Sotillo on the 4th Ave Parking Ramp (349 4th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This mural really is larger than life and is a striking illustration of reanimating Downtown and NewBo — Czech Village and rebuilding the city following the devastating flood of 2008.

“Five Seasons” (2017) by Pedro Campiche (AKACORLEONE) on the 3rd St SE Skywalk (415 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

This sky(walk)-high mural is cheery and colorful interpretation of Cedar Rapids’ favorite season, the 5th.

“Free Bird” (2016) by Tim Adams on the 3rd St SE Skywalk (415 3rd St SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

Another sky(walk)-high mural that draws inspiration from the city’s resilient response to the 2008 flood. The birds make up the actual notes of the song, “Free Bird”, and the song represents staying strong following a tragedy.

“Diversity in Motion” (2016) by Jo Myers Walker on the 3rd St SE Skywalk (303 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)
“Diversity in Motion” (2016) by Jo Myers Walker on the 3rd St SE Skywalk (303 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

The third sky(walk)-high mural is the double-sided “Diversity in Motion” that is meant to represent the residents of Cedar Rapids.

The Five Seasons — Hills Bank (240 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

Here’s another mural that includes Cedar Rapids elements, including a lion from the Bridge of Lions and the Cedar River (winter panel), that is meant to illustrate the City’s Five Seasons.

“Entering the Eras” (2012) by Bounnak Thammavong & Mike Sneller on 3rd St SE Alley between 3rd and 2nd Ave SE (227 2nd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)

Entering the Eras” illustrates the hubbub and vitality of Downtown Cedar Rapids in its early days to the 1920s (1890–1920) with three different period buildings, and the people are portrayals of historical Cedar Rapidians, including George Greene, George Carroll, Lawson Daniels, Carl Van Vechten, The Cherry Sisters, Paul Engle, Art Collins, Grant Wood, Marvin Cone, and George Douglas

“The world according to art” mural. This monetary play on American Gothic could be seen from the old Guaranty Bank building (329 2nd Ave SE Cedar Rapids, IA 52401).
“Mouse-Eared Bone” (1995) by Ted Tangen in Huston Park (1437 3rd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403)
Wellington Community Garden on the Wellington Heights Community Corner (1449 4th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403)

Volunteers from Save CR Heritage, the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, Green Iowa AmeriCorps, and area residents constructed and planted the Wellington Community Garden back in 2015.

Mural on the Paul Engle Center (1600 4th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403)
“A city’s future is not tall stone piled on stone, by a free mind in a living child.” — Paul Engle (Mural on the Paul Engle Center — 1600 4th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403)

The Paul Engle Center for Community Arts supports local efforts to inspire artistic expression, particularly written expression, within the community.

Alley Transformation Pilot Project — partnership between Confluence architects, Downtown Cedar Rapids, and Iowa BIG (Alley between Theatre Cedar Rapids and Bricks Bar & Grill — 3rd Street entrance between 2nd & 1st Avenues)

This bubbly and colorful creation was a temporary installation as part of pilot project to reimagine alleys in Downtown Cedar Rapids in 2017. Sadly, there has been no permanent art installed in the alleys yet.

Painted wall and Americana stencils (420 2nd Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401)