If last summer’s interactive public art installation on Iowa City’s pedestrian mall brought visitors back to the “living room of the city,” this year’s installation hosts the Community House.
The Downtown District of Iowa City, in partnership with Iowa City, Think Iowa City and the Community Foundation of Johnson County, presents “Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0,” which opened to the public Thursday and will remain on the Ped Mall until July 10.
“Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0” was created by designers Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena and is presented by interactive installation tour producer Creos.
Over the next month, visitors will see 16 three-dimensional red frames in the shape of tiny houses located off East Washington Street and throughout the Ped Mall. Inside the houses is a swing that people are welcome to enjoy, centered around the idea of fostering human connection.
“Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0” is inspired by the mercadosor street markets, in Latin America.
Cadena told Press-Citizen that in Mexico, these markets are spaces for human connection, commerce and social interaction.
The designers are both Mexican and share many memories of the mercados they frequented while growing up there.
Esrawe said that alongside commerce and social interaction, mercados are “in many ways the heart of cities”.
Cadena recalled many mercado weekends with his “foodie” father, including at a local market and a seaside market.
“It was part of my life from an early age,” he said.
Esrawe and Cadena agreed that the sentiments they associate with mercados are tied to the facility.
“‘Mi Casa, Your Casa’ connects to the idea of joy, of connecting with other people, of community in public space,” Cadena said. “We’ve always had public spaces designed to linger and communicate. More than ever after the pandemic… it becomes relevant.
From its origins in Atlanta, why ‘Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0’ came to Iowa City
The public art installation was born as part of a two-year initiative to activate the Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia in 2014 with hammocks and art-making workshops animated by the High Museum of Art, according to the Museum.
Cadena said it was an “incredible exercise” to understand how design, through an installation like casas, has the power to be a bridge between a place and a community.
The artists explored how to create a confined space without using walls, Cadena said. What separates “Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0” from its predecessor is the light. Serge Maheu, a multidisciplinary artist based in Montreal, is responsible for the lighting and its interactive concept. When a casa is empty, a white glow will emit to welcome people to enter. When someone is inside, the glow will intensify to show someone is home.
The light also extends the time that “Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0” can be experienced, which might otherwise be limited to daylight hours, Esrawe said.
The downtown district worked with Creos to present the art installation ‘Loop’ last summer, which allowed visitors to sit inside the artwork and see a story unfold through a series of hand drawn illustrations.
Betsy Potter, Director of Creative Services for the Downtown District, told Press-Citizen that the “Loop” installation was awesome, and this year they wanted to bring something with a different feel.
“(The casas) have such a fun element,” she said. “You can spend two minutes, you could spend an hour swinging. Everyone has probably done some kind of swing at some point, whether it was in a playground as a child, as an adult, whatever. Swings are very playful and fun, and they appeal to many different audiences. »
“Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0” isn’t the first art installation to come to the Ped Mall that uses swings.
The “Prairie Box” by artist Hannah Givler was a public art installation on the Ped Mall in 2017 that also took the form of a house with an entrance, porch and swings that invited the community in and to experience.
“Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0” has been in cities across the country, including Boston, Massachusetts; Tucson, Ariz.; and Charlotte, North Carolina.
“We are very grateful to the various cities that have hosted our work,” Cadena said.
Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition will receive donations of your “Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0” photos
Esrawe said that if you ask someone to draw the shape of a house, most will find the outline used by the casas from “Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0”.
The installation mirrors mercados in Mexico while representing a broader, shared understanding of what a home is, Esrawe said.
The Johnson County and Downtown District Community Foundation sought to use this public art installation “to develop some really productive conversations about many of the initiatives that are happening in our community around housing,” Potter said.
In partnership with the Community Foundation of Johnson County, $1 will be donated to the Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition for any photo of the “Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0” installation posted and tagged @downtowniowacity, #downtowniowacity, and #micasayourcasa. All community donations will be matched by the Community Foundation of Johnson County.
“(‘Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0’) creates engagement. We drive people downtown, but we also develop a conversation around housing in our community and fundraise for it,” said said Potter.
Correction: Designer Ignacio Cadena’s last name was misspelled in an earlier version of this piece.
Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle and the arts at Iowa City Press-Citizen. Contact her at [email protected] or (319) 519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.