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A group of students from Iowa State University embraced and visited Mount Ayr to better understand how small towns thrive and are now sharing the fruits of their labor with the community. Their final project included a mural design and accompanying toolkit.
Their study was part of a design course exploring strategies and methods that use art and design to increase social capital in communities.
Students from a variety of disciplines worked independently and collaboratively throughout the semester to learn effective ways to engage communities, facilitate meaningful community experiences, and use art, design, and culture to build understanding among diverse populations around selected topics.
During their visits to Mount Ayr, students explored the assets of the town and looked for ways to encourage the retention of residents within the town while also revitalizing parts of town.
Students were divided into three teams, each tasked with developing a plan for future community engagement.
Their goals included talking with local residents to gain a deeper understanding of the community, and bringing the community together through art, design and a pop-up community event to help lessen the divide between the younger and older generations.
One project focused around a community mural proposed for the side of the Princess Theater building. The students presented three different mural ideas to the Princess Theater board members and a final design was selected.
Old movie theater films serve as the basis of the chosen design featuring big, bright, and bold colors that everyone can enjoy. In addition to promoting community engagement, the movie film continues onto the sidewalk to make the mural more interactive for the community and makes it a great space to take pictures. The design will be given to the theater as part of a toolkit with simple paint-by-number instructions so that it can be painted by anyone.
Shrinking rural towns exist all over the world, but especially in the Midwest and Great Plains. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Rural Shrink Smart is developing strategies and sharing examples of successful shrink-smart towns to help similar communities improve the quality of life for area residents. You can learn more about the Rural Shrink Smart study by visiting www.ruralshrinksmart.org