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Marshalltown: An Arts Oasis

This gem in Central Iowa boasts a thriving (and growing!) cultural and entertainment scene.

By Lindsey Hyde on August 11, 2022

“Marshalltown Postcard” mural by Jimmy Navarro
Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce

From public art projects to community theater productions, Marshalltown offers a thriving arts and entertainment scene that gives many larger cities a run for their money. And thanks to its quaint size, residents can find everything they’re looking for without spending more than 10 minutes in the car.

Investing in the Arts in Marshalltown

While Marshalltown boasts a collection of must-see public art, new projects are always on the horizon, thanks to the city’s Public Art Committee, a program of the Marshall County Arts & Culture Alliance.

“A vibrant arts and culture environment is critical to enhancing the quality of life and driving economic development, while nurturing a positive view of the community among residents and visitors alike,” says Amber Danielson, the alliance’s executive director. “The arts have the unique ability to build and instill a sense of pride, attachment and belonging.”

“The Starry Night of Marshalltown” in Iowa
Jeff Adkins

While out and about, residents can feast their eyes on a slew of gorgeous murals, like Marshalltown’s “Postcard Mural” outside Thompson True Value Hardware, “The Starry Night of Marshalltown” outside First Interstate Bank, and “Cosmic Expansion” on the north wall of The Chop Shop Salon.

Plus, residents are drawn to Marshalltown’s Gallery Garden Park, a downtown pocket park that opened in 2017. If you need a few minutes to relax from your workday or shopping excursion, the park’s tables, seating, live wall and evaporation pool provide the perfect setting.

“(It’s) a pride point for our community and a destination for residents and visitors. It is a unique experience that you can’t find anywhere else. It is a must,” Danielson says.

“Drills” sculpture at the entrance to the Marshalltown High School Roundhouse in Iowa
Jeff Adkins

In addition to investing in outdoor elements, the city is in the process of restoring Fisher Community Center, which was damaged by the derecho that swept through the Midwest in August 2020. Set to open in 2022 under the name Marshalltown Arts & Civic Center, the facility will feature five community conference rooms and an improved auditorium. The space will also house the Marshall County Arts & Culture Alliance, Marshalltown Area United Way, Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation and Marshall County Community Foundation.

Marshalltown Community College’s Ray Frederick Art Gallery recently underwent a renovation, as well, and reopened in the spring of 2022. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Visitors can view student creations as well as works by a new local artist every month.

Live music at The Cartwright Downtown Farmer’s Market in Marshalltown, IA

Must-See (and Hear) Performances

Marshalltown boasts a full calendar of various musical performances. Part of the community for more than 80 years, Live On Stage Marshalltown, an all-volunteer, nonprofit concert association, holds five to six concerts a year at Marshalltown Performing Arts Center.

Examples of acts one might see include a powerhouse cello and vocal duo, a talented a cappella group and the musical stylings of a harp, piano, cello and voice quartet.

“It is an opportunity for our community to experience talented musicians and performers that you would normally not see in a town our size,” Danielson says. “They do a fabulous job at bringing in a wide variety of styles and genres, so throughout the series, there is something for everyone.”

Marshalltown Community Theatre, which dates back to 1932, also holds a variety of productions, such as comedies like “Tim and George + Carla,” and suspense-filled dramas like “Careful What You Wish For.”

“We are very fortunate to have a talented group of volunteers continuing the legacy of theater in Marshalltown and hosting outstanding performances year after year,” she says.

Residents can also enjoy live music at Grimes Farm’s amphitheater, the Central Iowa Fair and at local bars like Old Timer Tavern and Dave & Sally’s Bar & Grill.

“Marshalltown’s music scene is on fire,” Danielson says. “There isn’t a week that goes by where you can’t find live music at multiple locations throughout our community.”

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