From up here, you can see art: The members of the Tower View Team of Jefferson Matters: Main Street hope that rooftop art catches on around the Square, giving people another reason to visit the Bell Tower.Three works of art by Stephanie Hammond have been enlarged for installation atop a building on the Square. The art can only be seen from the Bell Tower observation deck.

New art installation to challenge acrophobics

Art can be seen only from top of Bell Tower


Some art is fearless.

But in order just to see three works by Stephanie Hammond, viewers themselves with a fear of heights will have to suck it up for art’s sake.

Beginning Saturday, her art will be waiting for them — 120 feet off the ground.

Hammond is the first artist chosen to have her artwork displayed atop a downtown building, meaning it can only be viewed from the observation deck of the 14-story Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower.

“Going up the Bell Tower is a neat experience in and of itself,” Hammond, 36, said recently. “It’s going to add something when people can go up there and view art. It’s going to make that experience unique.”

Hammond hopes the rooftop art concept catches on — and so does the Tower View Team of Jefferson Matters: Main Street.

In fact, the volunteer public art group established in Debra McGinn’s living room even before Jefferson’s acceptance into the Main Street Iowa program hitched its very name to the idea.

“People looked at us like we were crazy, and maybe we are,” McGinn said, “but it’s something different.”

Hammond’s work — which has been blown up by Ogren’s Custom Graphics and placed on giant panels in order to be seen from across a street — will be unveiled at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Hammond, whose parents, Ken and Sue Bose, own the building at 104 E. State St. and have reopened an art and antiques shop in the space, will be on hand to greet visitors from 2 to 4 p.m. Free rides up the Bell Tower will be given during those two hours.
“It’s going to show what small towns are capable of doing,” Hammond said. “The small-town experience is going to be different because of it.”

Like any type of art, though, there’s risk involved.

The Tower View Team admittedly isn’t sure how best to display art on rooftops — and how to make it stay put.

“We don’t really know which product works best,” McGinn said.

Hammond’s art — which was originally done on canvas with paint, ink and markers — is merely the first in one big experiment.

But just the idea has been endorsed by everyone from the Greene County Community Foundation to the vice president of marketing for Wild Rose Entertainment, who adored the concept last year at early meetings to remake the county as a destination for tourists.

The foundation recently gave the Tower View Team, or TVT, $1,995 toward the project.

For the members of TVT, all of their projects to date have been largely to set the stage for rooftop art.

A year ago, the group dedicated Sally’s Alley in an alley on the south side of the Square. The space pays tribute to the wild bird photography of the late Sally White, of Churdan.

The summer of 2013 saw TVT place a Technicolor piano on the courthouse plaza for anyone to walk by and play — before the concept caught on in Des Moines.

Jefferson’s “Play Me Pleez” outdoor piano won a state award in 2014 from Main Street Iowa.

They’ve also yarn-bombed the trees on the courthouse lawn.

“We’re charged by Main Street to put art in surprising places,” McGinn said.

For Hammond, a 1997 graduate of Panorama High School who works in the corporate world in Des Moines, it will be nice “to still have a piece of me in Jefferson.”

In 2011, she left her job at AAI as human resources manager to open Crafted, a consignment art and crafts boutique in her parents’ building on the Square.

It was “absolutely heartbreaking” to have to close the doors of Crafted a short time later after enduring a divorce.

“I had to get my corporate clothes back out,” she said.

The idea of creating rooftop art in Jefferson is surprisingly not a new one.

Back in the 1970s, Marc McGinn once asked his then-girlfriend, the former Debra Williamson — in the spirit of full disclosure, this reporter’s future dad and mom — to accompany him up the Bell Tower, which had been built in 1966.

“I said, ‘Why? The countryside is nice, but all you see is black, ugly rooftops,’ ” Debra McGinn said. “We both said it would be cool to have flower pots or artwork up there.”

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