ISU Associate Professor Tours Complex

Jennifer Drinkwater, an associate professor in Art & Visual Culture and the community arts specialist for Iowa State Extension and Outreach, toured the Elma Community Complex project this week.

An upper-level class from the College of Design at Iowa State University will be collaborating with the community of Elma this spring as the town completes its new community center project.

In late January, Jennifer along with 12 students from six departments, including Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Art & Visual Culture, and Community and Regional Planning, to meet with the community and learn more about how they can assist with some art and design planning during the spring semester.

“We are wanting to incorporate the murals that were on the former brick school into the exterior of the project along with adding an east and south entrance. This is one of the projects we are going to have the students help us get community input on and design. It is important that we incorporate the history of the school into our project and have a city building that the community is proud of inside and out,” commented Renee Burke, Elma Library Director. If there are community members that want to provide input on this, they are asked to call the Elma Public Library.

This class is part of the Rural Shrink Smart Initiative, a multi-year project examining how shrinking Iowa communities can maintain their high quality of life. A team including statisticians, sociologists, planners, and designers from Iowa State University and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln as well as professional staff from the Iowa League of Cities are developing this project with a $1.5 million grant from the Smart & Connected Communities program at the National Science Foundation. The team will be working with six Iowa communities during the grant, including Elma. Drinkwater’s class will focus on how art and design can help shape community identity and increase community belonging in Elma.

Learn more about the Elma Community Complex project or contact Shannon Gebel, Elma City Clerk, at 641-393-2543 or

Posted: December 2, 2021 in Community Complex