The soul of New Bohemia — Czech Village is proudly on display through murals, art installations, and special spaces crafted by the creatives who call this cultural district home.
I have been a proud resident of New Bohemia — Czech Village in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, since 2015. This district is in the heart of Cedar Rapids bordering downtown and the Oakhill Jackson neighborhood. When I moved to town, one of my first friends introduced me to Corridor Urbanism and to the biking community. Now, I walk or bike when I can (not only to be green and stay active) because I get see a different side of the city. I love discovering or rediscovering hidden gems in Cedar Rapids, so I decided to share some of the coolest corners and most wonderful walls in town that I have found so far.
And don’t worry, I included locations in case you want to check out these sights for yourself (#doitforthegram).
The sentiment portrayed by this mural is an especially important one because it speaks to the welcoming nature of the Oakhill Jackson neighborhood.
New Bohemia is in the heart of the city of Cedar Rapids right on the Cedar River and is right next to downtown.
Here’s part of its origin story from my coworker and Cedar Rapids community builder Jill Wilkins: “The heart sculpture was part of one of my first projects working at the Downtown District. We placed it and the rest of the sculpture show two weeks before the 2008 flood. This sculpture weighs a couple tons and was moved a block by the flood water. It was a pretty powerful example of what water can do and the heart also pretty symbolic of the work that came after.”
No history lesson here, just a colorful mural.
Humans of Cedar Rapids was started as a project by a group of Iowa BIG students. Iowa BIG is an initiative-based public high school, which is a partnership of the Cedar Rapids Community School District, the College Community School District (Prairie) and the Linn-Mar Community School District.
This little mural has been here for years, but I’m not aware of its creator.
This mural is also an oldie, and I’m not sure who the artist is.
Here’s what Jordan Weber shared about this piece of public art:
Weber works at the cross section of social justice and environmental justice. This exhibit combines his passion for both issues by focusing on breathing. This is in reference to the “I can’t breathe” rallying cry shared by Black Lives Matter protestors across the nation, as well as the practice of meditation to reclaim one’s connection to earth.
“The simple act to ‘breathe in and breathe out’ to maintain life is in constant threat in our communities from toxic eco-systems to violent interactions with police,” Weber says. “We, as a collective body of sentient beings, have to reclaim our connection to land and human stewardship completely separate from the pitfalls of political tribalism. I would like this installation to act as a point for individuals to just breathe. Disconnect with your ego, your sense of self, and your conditioned mind in order to reconnect with the totality of your existence on this planet with fellow human beings. We must unify in order to heal our lands and our communities — together.”
CSPS Hall / Legion Arts brings artists from around the world, from folk to jazz to blues, from cabaret to contemporary dance, to Cedar Rapids. It is a perfect arts and culture anchor in the district, not only hosting performers from across the globe but also being an amazing venue for community events. It was built during 1890–91, and the building was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
If you want a quick trip through Cedar Rapids history, order one of the 56 beers on tap and take a look around Parlor City. The Jelinek family has been a staple in New Bohemia for more than a decade and was one of the first to open in the neighborhood after the 2008 flood.
Here’s a snapshot of the art that was here but is no longer.
This container is part of an urban art installation from the New Bohemia Arts Festival. The festival began in 2007 as the New Bohemia Music Festival. The founders of the festival, the New Bohemia Group, wanted to provide Cedar Rapids with a unique visual and performing arts experience that celebrated the creative spirit of the New Bohemia Arts and Culture District.
It’s impossible to talk about art in Czech Village — New Bohemia without mentioning Anne Stamats and Black Earth Gallery. Anne is a pillar of the arts community. She runs Black Earth Gallery, which curates works from artists around the world; produces NewBo Arts Festival; runs 2x2xU, the annual celebration of public art; and helped start First Thursdays in NewBo, an art walk from gallery to gallery.