Making What Matters In Marshalltown – TOGETHER!

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In February of 2023, the City of Marshalltown’s Arts & Culture Master Plan was unanimously approved by Marshalltown City Council. The Master Plan is a 10-year guide book for accomplishing creative placemaking with an emphasis on developing a unique and distinct community, while authentically reflecting our residents. The Master Plan was shaped by the diverse voices and distinct perspectives of Marshalltown residents. It was not created to stand alone as a separate plan. Instead, it was created as a lens to look through as we execute the influential plans already guiding Marshalltown (i.e., Downtown, Trails, Highway 14 and Parks & Rec Master Plans). It aligns with and contributes to those plans, while being the implementation strategy for how we realize priorities and recommendations with a creative approach on the development efforts across our community.

This is a long-term strategy for community pride, engagement and development, which in turn impacts the success in accomplishing the needs and challenges of our community. It is a commitment to creative solutions and creative approaches. Amber Danielson, Executive Director of the Arts + Culture Alliance, shared, “creative placemaking is a proven model used across the world and specifically, all over the state of Iowa to attract, retain and engage residents and newcomers. This is how communities are accelerating goal attainment and growth. And we aren’t just talking about growth in residents. This work results in growth of entrepreneurs, community engagement, business attraction and development, community pride, local investors, unique events, neighborhood development, welcomeness, youth integration, and so much more. We are so proud to continue the strong partnership with the City of Marshalltown to implement this critical plan for our community.”

​Simply put, creative placemaking strengthens the connections between people and the places we share. It aims to increase vibrancy, improve economic conditions and build capacity among residents to take ownership of their community. It goes far beyond murals, sculptures and even events; it’s about creatively addressing challenges and opportunities together with the community. It is weaving and embedding creativity at the core of community building.

Locally, we can point to the 13th Street District as an example of successful creative placemaking. The revitalization of this district showcases a grassroots effort to enhance a space with a creative approach to foster economic development, recreation opportunities and community pride. A creative approach on the development in this area has led to a thriving and unique experience in our community, filled with people and vibrancy on a daily basis. It is now home to Iowa’s best burger and pork, host of Marshalltown’s most favorited events, Iowa’s first outdoor lit futsal courts, a one-of-a-kind natural playscape, an outdoor gathering space and so much more. Just imagine the impact of this creative approach expanded into development projects throughout the entire community.

Aimee Deimerly-Snyder, owner of Lillie Mae Chocolates in the 13th Street District, said “we are so excited about the City’s support of the Arts and Culture Master Plan. We have been a part of the initiative to revitalize the 13th Street District from the very beginning. At that time, it was a dilapidated and a dirty area, now with the creative placemaking by the Arts + Cultural Alliance, along with the support of the volunteers, city, chamber, business community and support of the 13th Street Board, it is a vibrant and thriving place. We hear it described as a cool area that people really want to be a part of. It makes us feel proud. We hope other areas in town using art and creative placemaking will also experience this grass roots revitalization.”

When people feel connected, they engage to make a better place. As seen in the 13th street District, it is a ripple effect for transformation and growth. Research shows that community attachment brings economic growth and well-being. Residents establish a connection and a commitment to where they live. It is an emotional function that drives behavior — the sense of belonging, the confidence that a person can make an impact and find support in their home community. These feelings fuse people to a place and to each other.

Furthermore, with remote jobs on the rise, people have an increased ability to choose anywhere to live. Culture is among the top 10 factors considered when deciding where to live. Arts, culture and creativity make communities vibrant, welcoming and desirable. They are the backbone of innovation, prosperity, and thriving people and places. Cultural places and events are magnetic, attracting families, travelers, businesses and entrepreneurs. Again, look at the attendance of the most recent Harvest Market. People are drawn to unique experiences and spaces. Creative placemaking positively impacts local economies and quality of life.

Community member, Erin Carpenter, shared, “The community made progress and became the kind of place where we wanted to live. I am very proud to call Marshalltown my home now,” she said. “I don’t think those words could have come into my brain let alone out of my mouth a decade ago, and I am so enthusiastic about the work that the Arts + Culture Alliance is doing in this community and other organizations that are pushing us forward and making a difference in the quality of the community that we have.”

Our spaces and experiences shape who are as individuals, families and as a community. Our environments should strive to support positive thoughts and emotions. Placemaking initiatives have resulted in a 63% increase in positive feelings towards the locations, resulting in environments that were more inviting, beautiful, stimulating, and comfortable. Not only does placemaking make us think positively and feel good, but it shapes how likely we are to tell others or share information about the place. Research shows a 77% increased likelihood for individuals to recommend the site to friends, family, acquaintances, and a 74% increased likelihood for individuals to share more information about the location. We shape our places and thereafter they shape us.

Jeff Siegler, founder of Revitalize or Die and Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 annual banquet speaker, recently shared, “tomorrow’s economic development is about aesthetics. People make choices based on beauty. Pretty matters. It means everything because function follows form. Humans gravitate towards beauty and do what they can to surround themselves with it.” Capitalizing on the effects of creative placemaking and implementation of the Arts & Culture Master Plan requires strong public support. There is an urgency, and critical opportunity, for Marshalltown to embrace and advance place-led development that produces better economic outcomes for our community.

Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce CEO, John Hall, stated, “Speaking from a position of growth and development for our community, as well as the demands we are hearing from our business community, we know that these dollars are relevant, timely, and necessary. The challenges related to recruitment and retention of high-quality talent are the number one issue facing our business community. Gone are the days of job creation driving people’s decisions for living, now people’s choices on where to live drive job creation. People are unapologetically picking places that feel warm and welcoming to who they are, and where they feel like opportunity is possible for them, their spouses, and their families. The City of Marshalltown’s Arts & Culture Master Plan drives at the very essence of what makes us unique and distinctive and celebrates our uniqueness in authentic and meaningful ways.”

Making a vibrant and welcoming Marshalltown, alive with arts and authentic cultural opportunities, will take all of us. This future is hopeful and attainable. We invite you to take pART with us.

Established in 2004, the Arts + Culture Alliance is committed to ensuring creativity is at the heart of a thriving and vibrant Marshalltown, accomplishing the mission and vision by connecting, advocating and celebrating.



Together, with your support, we can create opportunities for a thriving and vibrant community. Make a 100% tax deductible donation* online today.

*The Arts + Culture Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law. If you have any questions, please contact us.