“Art in the Park” is an Iowa West Foundation initiative to replace weathered park identification signs at five community parks. The project is being coordinated by the Council Bluffs Parks, Recreation, and Public Property Department with assistance from the City Public Art Commission. These signs, all created by area artists, were developed with public input and overseen by art curator Joel Damon.
This secluded park located just east of the corner of Clark and 5th Avenue was once the home for the athletic field of Abraham Lincoln High School, Council Bluffs’ first high school. Named after the principal in the 1930s and 1940s, A.W. Kirn, the hilltop land overlooks the Missouri River Valley and the west side of the city.
Unfortunately, the condition of the field and the track took a turn for the worse in the late 20th century. But rather than having the park developed into a housing subdivision, a group of neighbors pulled together to purchase the property from the school district and donated it to the city in 1990. A $140,000 grant from the Iowa West Foundation matched city funds for a major renovation of the park, which was celebrated with a grand re-opening on August 8, 2014.
During neighborhood meetings to discuss the new park signs, area residents wanted signage that would fit with the turn of the century neighborhood. That’s exactly what local artist Sean Ward designed. Using a concrete base with several yards of reinforcement below the frost line, Ward used hexagonal, colored-body tiles to spell out Kirn Park, along with flowers, on both the north and south signs.
“This tile look was standard back in the day,” said Ward, an architectural history buff. “There are very few manufacturers left.”
Ward knew he was right on target with his design when a nearby resident told him that he had the same exact tile in his bathroom.
The well-crafted signage will be just enough to point visitors toward the park’s tucked-away location without standing out.
“I want it to last 100 years,” said Ward of South Omaha, who has worked on projects for the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Carver Bank Building and Krug Park.
Kirn Park is nearly hidden from street view, but once inside, visitors can exercise on the red cinder track — one of the last cinder tracks in the Midwest —
toss a football back and forth on the field or just enjoy the view from the bleachers. Kids can burn off energy on the playground while families can snack at the sheltered picnic tables.
The serenity of this hidden gem of a park is coveted by the surrounding neighborhood. The signage matches the location: subtle, yet beautiful.
Other "Art in the Park" signage includes:
Big Lake Park