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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — If you stand at the Iowa City Senior Center with headphones on, you can hear a woman’s voice telling you she’s been listening to words for 50 years in Iowa City.

In a slightly raspy voice, she names a few writers who were here before the UNESCO City of Literature designation.

She will tell you how the building you are standing in front of was once a post office, which witnessed the words of these writers being mailed out to the world.

“I listen,” she says. “We are listening. You are listening. Now.”

The chirping of birds and the sounds of traffic mingle with the sounds of a typewriter which slowly evolve into other sounds, including one reminiscent of a metallic noise.

This is just an excerpt from one of 10 audio tracks, featuring contributions from a dozen mostly local artists and bands, matching parking spots across Iowa City as part of the project titled ” The Parking Spaces”.

This is an extended version of 2020’s “The Parking Space Project” by Stephanie Miracle, Steven Willis and Ramin Roshandel. Located on the fourth floor of the Chauncey Swan Ramp, “The Parking Space Project” was a 30-minute site-specific audio installation where people were guided to different points in space for a sound experience.

In this latest version, listeners can visit theparkingspaces.com website or scan the QR code found at each location and hear every piece, a majority of 10 minutes or less. There are no specific points where listeners should start.

Spaces included in the project include Chauncey Swan Park, with audio from the organizers of the FilmScene podcast, or the Capitol Street parking ramp, with contributions from poet and performer Caleb “The Negro Artist” Rainey and the band Wave Cage.

Miracle, a choreographer and teaching artist, told the Press-Citizen that the first iteration of the project attracted listeners from overseas and others who checked it out months after its debut.

“Their response was so special to hear them say, ‘Oh, those particular birds were flying overhead,’ or ‘I saw someone crossing the street at that time,’ or something where it was like that moment when they chose to listen, it had been a perfect moment for them,” she said. “We loved how unpredictable it was, and yet he was available for that people listen when it suits them.”

There was interest, both from listeners and from the trio, to expand the project.

Two years later, thanks to grants, including one from Iowa City, “The Parking Spaces” debuted.

“The Parking Spaces” invites listeners into the everyday spaces of Iowa City

“Patience”, as Miracle describes it, is built into this project, in which the sound waits for people.

It is accessible at any time.

The project, still led by the same trio involved in the original piece, continues to reflect Miracle’s interest in creating experiences where people can “question the way they see and interact” with spaces. everyday life around them.

One of the pieces in Miracle earlier this year was “Mammal Hall,” a short film that took the viewer into the titular hall of the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History to conjure up questions about space. and museum attendance.

Roshandel, Miracle and Willis enlisted local creatives for ‘The Parking Spaces’, each assigning them a parking space to fill with their words, music and thoughts, including Iowa City improv trio Wombat .

Assigned to Space Eight, the Tower Place parking ramp, listeners are treated to a nearly 12-minute track of dissonant sounds that sometimes sound like the strumming of a guitar and saxophone, among other noises.

Wombat member Justin Comer said he’s visited this parking ramp several times. In 2019, the trio performed there.

Carlos Cotallo Solares and Will Yager, members of Wombat who now live on the East Coast, returned for an Iowa City-booked show shortly after all agreed to contribute to the project. They took a piece played at Trumpet Blossom Café and used it for “The Parking Spaces”.

The band improvises everything, so it’s already time- and site-specific, Comer said.

Wombat’s contribution transforms a “functional space” into a site for people to ruminate on.

“There’s a lot to see (on the Tower Place parking ramp), but most of the time we just drive by, like we have to pay for parking (and) we’re probably irritated by it,” said Comer. “Maybe we’re going to work or something, (we) just want to get away from it as soon as possible.”

Miracle said one of his interests as an artist is to work towards greater accessibility.

“The pandemic really forced me to consider some of these questions and look at who was being excluded as an audience because it wouldn’t be translatable,” she said.

The first iteration of this project was informed by questions from Miracle about how she could make a dance performance that people could experience amid social distancing orders and venue closures. She wondered how her work could be translated into another medium.

“With that came other broader issues around disability, access and how to build into the project some awareness of who is included and who is excluded, or where there are barriers,” he said. she declared.

The results include a decision for “The Parking Spaces” website to support alt text, which describes images in case they cannot be viewed. The Iowa City Public Library and Public Space One will provide people with a preloaded mp3 player and headphones as well as a printed map for those who don’t have a smartphone or can’t stream their device but still want to do audio installation experience.

Roshandel, composer for the first version of the project, had to put together all the narrations and poems with the field recordings he made for some of the spots or the music that was contributed.

He told Press-Citizen in an email that the experience was like “all of these people sharing their most loving stories with me.”

Through this expanded project, Roshandel felt he “belonged” and was part of a small community, one that was especially important to him because of his “outsider” status in America, he said.

“Many of the artists who have contributed to this project have been here for generations before I was even born. And being one of the curators of this project made me see this project as a way to bring together different voices and bring dialogue, first, between all these artists, and second, between this project and the city itself,” Roshandel said.

One such artist is Margee Miller, who recently retired after working at the University of Iowa libraries for 23 years. She also taught German.

A lifelong student of literature, Miller said she had always been an admirer of writers and had met many when she was a student at UI years ago, thinking she too might s indulge in poetry.

Miller’s poem for “The Parking Spaces”, recorded aloud and included in a transcription downloadable from the website, marks his first published poem.

The play, which takes place at the Iowa City Senior Center, captures the building that Miller first experienced when she came to college as the post office.

“I kind of thought about what Iowa City means to me,” Miller said, recalling how happy she was to study literature and attend readings and classes. “I feel honored and privileged to live in Iowa City.”

Miller’s piece not only reflects her past with the building, but the thoughts she had as she sat on the bench outside and admired her surroundings, including the changing landscape of Iowa City. .

As for listeners to “The Parking Spaces,” Miller thinks they’ll come away with an understanding of the diverse set of people doing creative things in the community.

“I hope this makes everyone feel like they belong in Iowa City,” she said.