Downtown Marion looked quite different Wednesday afternoon.
Art and design students from Indiana Wesleyan University took to the streets to display the facades they had designed for numerous buildings downtown.
The project, a final assignment of sorts for three classes taught at IWU, partnered with numerous local sponsors like Marion Design Co. and the Grant County Economic Growth Council. Their goal: create a renovated image for the historical and oftentimes abandoned structures peppered throughout downtown.
Henrik Soderstrom, the instructor for the project’s Sculpture class, said the students intended to “be a part of civic space in transition.”
Drawing from disciplines like architecture, interior design and urban planning, the semester’s classwork has honed in on how to “create spaces that respond to the community that lives there,” said Herb “Vincent” Peterson, who teaches the program’s Design Research class.
Through these classes, the students “synthesize and build out an idea,” Peterson said, yet more importantly “they get more connected to businesses and organizations in the community.”
“We need more common spaces,” said student Elaina Ededuwa, “to interconnect with people who lived in Marion their entire lives.”
It is no secret IWU and the city of Marion have struggled to bridge the divide between college students and downtown spaces. Many of the students downtown Wednesday even admitted to never visiting downtown Marion before the project.
One IWU student, Sophia Hawkins, said students in the past have been overly “fearful” of downtown.
Yet many of the students spoke passionately about improving the downtown space.
Standing outside the Wolfe building, Sara Krock detailed the extensive research she had done on the structure’s history. She learned it had been a drug store and was known for its billboards outside of town. Yet, the students assigned to the Wolfe building were limited in their design by the fact they could only work with the facade’s windows. Krock and fellow student Becca Bonica had then opted to paint carrier pigeons across the windows.
They wanted to “play on that humor” of being limited and “embrace the problems we’re facing,” Bonica said.
At the CSA building on 301 S. Adams St., students added re-purposed boxes to provide seating for parents waiting on their children in dance classes. Of the downtown spaces, student Madi Fox said they simply needed “upkeep and updating to make it more inviting.”
Many of the facades channeled local history, yet it was the window display at the property of 414 S. Washington St., next to the Centrum Mall, which approached history in an exciting way.
With assistance from The Refinery, students filled the display with antique metals and devices meant to channel the foregone “industrial look” of Marion. Using acrylic paint, the students projected a photo of a busy refinery through several sheets of Plexiglas, creating a whole image through fractured parts.
Hawkins, who helped design the display, said it was meant for “reflecting on both past and present.”
“You can’t cover it up, but you can’t just dwell on the past either,” she said.
Hawkins also detailed how her and other students rode the public transportation around Marion. Through speaking with passengers and drivers, it helped them understand the community their university is too often disconnected from.
“It’s interesting to see how Marion has compensated,” she said.
The city has “it,” according to Hawkins, “but we have to be able to show it.”