The Parking Spaces offers interactive audio art experience in downtown Iowa City

Iowa artists Steven Willis, Ramin Roshandel and Stephanie Miracle created a unique listening experience at spots around downtown Iowa City.

Lilly Hawker

Parking spaces on the fourth floor of the Chauncey Swan Parking Garage are seen in Iowa City on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022.

During the height of the pandemic, an Iowa City choreographer, composer and musician collaborated to create The Parking Spaces, an asynchronous art experience spread throughout downtown. All three returned to update the project this year.

“Parking spaces is an interactive audio experience found in eleven public spaces across the city. The work includes various audio narrations ranging in style and location, from Black Hawk Mini Park to the Chauncey Street parking ramp.

Map by Eleanor Hildebrandt/The Daily Iowan

The first rendition of The Parking Spaces

First created by writer/poet Steven Willis, composer Ramin Roshandel and choreographer Stephanie Miracle in 2020, the project previously titled “The Parking Spaces Project” was originally an idea born out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Almost all the theaters were completely closed,” Miracle said. “There was very little – if any – basically no live performance.”

Miracle, an assistant professor of dance at the University of Iowa, joined forces with Willis, a current poetry student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Roshandel, Ph.D. candidate for music composition at UI.

The trio wanted to create art that brings people together in a physical space during the pandemic. They decided on the Chauncey Swan Parking Ramp located on East Washington Street in Iowa City.

Ten audio experiences were created for the fourth floor of the ramp. Each audio segment in this release corresponds to a parking space number and is available on the project’s website.

Willis and Miracle took turns reporting different parking numbers. Each space used sound or music on recordings composed and arranged by Roshandel, the sound engineer for the project.

Parking spaces

Now, there is an updated continuation of the experience that includes ten local artists.

Miracle said he wanted to bring in new artists to introduce more expressions, different generations and different representations of identity and art forms. The project now also includes spoken word poetry, a podcast element, a music-only narrative and an interactive experience.

“It was important for us to show these different shades of our community,” Miracle said.

One of the local artists, Mary Mayo, said her interest was sparked by the initial project. Willis asked her to do voice work for the new edition.

“I really enjoyed the first iteration of this … I immediately said yes because I really enjoyed the first one, being a participant, you know, being in the audience of the first one,” Mayo said.

Jason Snell, another local artist contributor, previously worked on an interactive lighting piece at the Old Capitol Mall Parking Ramp in 2019. Miracle commissioned him to make a recording revising that piece of art for the updated piece.

“For me, it was a nice revisit to an earlier space, and the piece itself was about memory and how memory changes over time. So it was interesting to revisit a piece about memory and see what I could remember about it and retell the experience of making it and the musical product — the public art aspect of it,” Snell said.

Many of the project’s artists are involved with UI, Miracle said.

“The university is already a gathering place of people seeking knowledge, people wanting to meet each other, and that also feels like a good analogy for how we make connections and networks and how we relate to spaces,” Miracle said.

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