Walking with Women to Greatness

An immersive experience on the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge during a future Women's History Month in March. The project will take place pending approvals, and necessary fabrication, partnerships, funding, and permissions are secured.

Laura Formanek (she/her)
About the public art project
Whenever I journey across the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge in Des Moines, I feel as though I can accomplish anything. I want to share this feeling with others through art. I am currently developing my first public art project, “Walking with Women to Greatness,” a site-specific, immersive video projection installation experience on the dual pathways of the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge during Women’s History Month.
The installation’s projected animations will feature a diverse group of notable Iowa women and their contributions to the state and beyond, using photographs, newspaper clippings, and oral histories from the extensive collection at the Iowa Women's Archives.
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walking with women to greatness experience
The Walking with Women to Greatness experience begins at either end of the bridge, as the projections will not be in chronological order, but rather grouped thematically and visually.
This presents an opportunity for the public to make an uninterrupted loop experiencing all of the installation. It also symbolizes the ongoing continuation of achievements by women in future years to come.
Additionally, there will be reflective surfaces and text throughout to allow viewers to further interact with the projections, and quite literally envision themselves mirrored on the path to adding meaningful contributions to the world. Speakers along the bridge will broadcast soundbites from oral history interviews.
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A diverse group of women
My focus will be on presenting a diverse group of women and their accomplishments, so as to encourage people to believe in their own ability to become a part of a better future.
It is integral to include representation across (but not limited to) race, ethnicity, tribe, sexual orientation, age, occupation, contribution, and persons with disabilities. Some examples might include Mary Wood, the first African American Director of a YWCA; or Jessie Field, who is known as the “Mother of 4-H.”
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microgrant dinner Funding REcipient
I recently won a microgrant from the Des Moines Arts Festival that will go toward covering the cost of insurance and help get the project off the ground. I am in the process of applying for multiple additional grants.
I’ve met with the curatorial staff at the UI Libraries’ Iowa Women’s Archives as well as the stewards of the bridge, Iowa Women Lead Change, who have expressed interest in promoting and possibly partially funding the project. I have also had positive feedback in discussions with Des Moines Parks and Recreation and the Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation, which oversees all public art projects for the city. Additionally, I am in touch with the lighting engineer involved in 2021 updates to the bridge’s lighting. These new lights allow for various color combinations and timings and he has offered to provide guidance on what can be modified based on safety requirements.
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Bridging the gap
Providing wide access to art through public art displays is incredibly important, especially outdoor public art in the wake of a pandemic. The sound design in the installation adds a further level of accessibility for those who are visually-impaired.
Women can truly achieve so many great things. I have no doubt that this project will push the bounds of what I'm currently creating and spark growth in me as an artist. By sharing these stories from history in the form of an accessible public art experience, I hope to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to bridge the gap between their dreams and their future realities--which is exactly what I am trying to do in my own life. I can't wait to make my vision for this project a reality.
community outreach
While on exhibition during Women’s History Month in March, there are several ways to extend the impact of “Walking with Women to Greatness.” I plan to host workshops and artist talks to help empower the next generation of women. Vignettes from the projected animations will be hosted online and shared out, as well as a wrap-up video that documents vision and process. I hope to involve artists, filmmakers, and sponsors across the community to help make the project a success and empower creators. I'd plan to partner with community organizations for physical space in Des Moines and to gather, learn, and create, especially on a large scale with large projectors and many artists involved.
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Phase 1 [Research, Planning & Fundraising]
​​​​​​​Preliminary research at Iowa Women’s Archives'
Architectural Engineering Consultation
Develop prototype, storyboards, and hire artists
Additional research and sourcing of archival materials

Phase 2 [Creative Asset Development]
Projection mapping 

Phase 3 [Implementation & Testing]
Fabrication and installation of rigs and engineered elements

Phase 4 [Project live]
Immersive experience on display
Related community programming

Phase 5 [Tentatively TBD: traveling installation]
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