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Come enjoy ArtSpark downtown

The Hanson Arts Park will host the community ArtSpark celebration to welcome Jamestown's residents to participate in what the Arts Park has to offer. Angela Martina / Special to The Sun

It’s been nearly 12 years since the Orlady building in downtown Jamestown burned to the ground and left a gaping hole in the landscape. Since that fateful day, the space has transformed from a black hole in the ground to a green space now known as the Hanson Arts Park. The park is now in the final stages of completion with a few little tweaks to make sure every detail is in place over the next year.

Over the years, the space has gone through a few transitions. One of the first years it was used for community garden plots to display flowers. This was done in a grid pattern and had good participation, however, all the markers and small signs made it look more like a cemetery over anything, and people voiced their concerns also. It was the first attempt at making something different for a green space downtown; after all, there used to be nice community gardens along the railroad tracks decades prior.

After that first attempt, it was decided that some large flower gardens and temporary pathways would be placed in that space to encourage usage and to beautify the space until plans and money were set aside for a permanent gathering spot. These flower beds were there for quite a few years with over 1,500 annuals planted and maintained each year. Grass was added, and the diligent staff at the Arts Center kept things watered and groomed. People began to use the space to sit on the picnic table for lunch, paint a picture or two, or just come down for a little relaxation on the cool lawn. There was even a small cultural festival to bring people into the space to learn a little about the arts.

A few years ago, funds were secured to begin making the park a permanent space with paved pathways, arts sculpture and a stage. The walkways were placed, the Prairie Grass Ballet was installed, and most recently the Boulder Pavilion was completed. Over two-thirds of the park plantings have been placed with the remainder to go in this fall to complete the look. Next year look for pops of brilliant color to be added in strategic locations to further pull you into the space.

This is an arts park. The space will be used for a variety of venues and will cater to the entire community, not just a few specifically belonging to the arts. See, the arts are a part of each and every one of us in one way or another. Some people are artistically inclined, some of us are musically talented, some have a flair for outdoor concerts, and other have a desire for small festivals. There are options for a farmers market or a craft show. There will also be other times where a variety of food choices might pull you in for a culinary event. There might be the opportunity to hold a small reunion or reception in the space for a celebration. The options are wide open. But keep in mind, many of the elements within the park are “artsy.”

The Prairie Grass Ballet stands out as a stark statement of the prairies from our region. It is a unique creation of modern and sleek with a representation of our past in the upper Midwest from a time long passed. Some will love it and some won’t, but that is the nature of art … we all have our own interpretations and that is very healthy.

The Boulder Pavilion offers the stage for music, theater and storytelling. When not used for those purposes, it can be used as a gathering spot for conversation, eating, or just as a space to take in the entire park from a different angle.

The plantings themselves will soften the look and add a cool location within our concrete jungle of a downtown. Maybe the overall look will encourage other nearby locations to add a little more greenery, some more trees and shrubs and some large splashes of color to bring the entire downtown scene together. I, for one, am grateful for the colorful baskets that now adorn our main street and some of the side streets. As a gardener, anywhere that I see a little nature added to a hardscape, it puts my heart at ease and I think that works very much the same for so many others.

Mark your calendars for Aug. 25 and 26 to attend the ArtSpark celebration for a variety of activities. This will give you just a general idea how the Hanson Arts Park can be used. There will be a variety of music choices performed on the new stage, art activities for all to be involved with, a little storytelling and a great light show both evenings to sit back and enjoy. Not only can you enjoy the space for the activities offered, but it also allows you to run into people you know to visit with and catch up. This is a community celebration for the whole family to enjoy. Take a look of the list of events on the Arts Center’s website at and become a part of a fun and enlightening community celebration. What the future holds for our downtown is limitless. Take it from all of us -- you just have to have a vision and a crew of people that knows how to get things done!