Public art contributes essential benefits to communities

Once upon a time in 1984 in Philadelphia, there was a mural in every corner of the city. 

The Mural Arts, a Philadelphia public art organization, has made over 3,600 murals on the building exteriors of the city. The organization believed that public art could empower the lives of those who were living there. 

Public art can help in many ways for communities. The benefits are cultural understanding, cultural identity and a sense of belonging. Some evenb consider it actually good marketing in cities for increased tourism. 

Big cities like London, Chicago and Toronto all made public art an important part of their infrastructure. Public art adds character and culture to big cities, small cities and even little towns. 

The small city of Cedar Falls is no exception. Public art is a very important part of the presentation of Cedar Falls, a bucolic, midwest university town, hours away from the big cities. The public art around town adds a certain whimsical feel to the commercial district of its busy main street, as well as in park areas, where trails meander through the beautiful green spaces. 

Since 1999, Small and big projects have been in constant review with the Cedar Falls Public Art Committee (CFPAC). Works are established that are meant to complement and inspire the vibrant cultural scene of the community. 

The projects are completed from donations from community members that support art and a hotel/motel tax. In general, citizens receive and react to various kinds of public art very well.

CFPAC committee member Katie Walberg answered these questions regarding the installation of public art in Cedar Falls.

How do you think public art defines Cedar Falls character as a small city?

I think public art enhances the character and charm of our small city. It creates a public platform that engages citizens in conversations that can vary from understanding historical and cultural backgrounds, to the uniqueness of our community, to the humanizing of our built environments and to the celebration of our community’s creativity. The Cedar Falls Public Art Committee (CFPAC) seeks works that stimulate the eye, mind and spirit of the public, and serves to celebrate and promote Cedar Falls’ unique character, cultural heritage, history, pride and sense of place.

How do you decide where public art should go?

The Cedar Falls Public Art Committee tours the city yearly to determine public sites that would benefit from public art. On some occasions members of the community have reached out to us with locations in mind as well. In each instance certain requirements are needed to confirm a site:

  • That the project location is on a strategic public site that is a benefit to the city
  • That the type of art is appropriate to the site. Considerations include the proposed art’s size, theme and budget.

In your experience, what is the feedback from Cedar Falls citizens on the public art displayed in Cedar Falls?

In my experience the community has been very supportive and excited about the public artworks located in Cedar Falls. I think our community values the work and creative spirit that goes into making our city a unique and welcoming place to live.


Public art is really for the whole community. Very popular as backdrops for the students of Cedar Falls, it is often used in graduation photos and social media content. Many wedding photos are taken in front of the various artworks.The art work also frames the city for different events, like Artapalooza and Sturgis Fair.  The great thing about public art is that it is free to see, which makes it accessible for everyone to enjoy. 

Public art is a privilege and a bonus in any town or city—something to be proud of. Small simple works and large complicated works can give character to otherwise mediocre environments. The art work can inspire people to look at their town in a different way, or maybe cause some shift in thinking on a subject. Any which way, public art evokes feeling, sentiment and thoughts. 

Innovative work can become an important economic vehicle in getting tourists and sightseers to visit. Whatever effect public art has, inspired or controversial, adding to a town or city’s landscape is a great idea. If you haven’t had a good look at the art work around your town, get out there and have a look.


In Cedar Falls, Iowa here are just a few of the many public art pieces you will find:


Drop leaf chicken(2004)



North is up(2004)

Standing stone(2004)

Horse rider(2002)


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