The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 28, 2013

Friendly faces line Lyons, Clinton’s business districts

By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Less than three months ago Jean Black hoped to create a walking photo gallery that would celebrate Clinton. Today, the product of the Clinton resident’s aspiration can be seen hanging in the windows of businesses and buildings in downtown Clinton and Lyons.  

Black started the project “Hats off to Clinton” with the intent of taking photos of a cross section of people who live, work, shop, attend school in or are a part of Clinton. The end result, she hoped, would be up to 300 large prints of those people hanging in windows across Clinton.

“It turned out even better than I imagined,” Black said.

She started by asking for donations to fund the project, space to host the photo booth sessions and window space to display the 36-inch-by-48-inch black and white prints.

Black wound up with $1,800 and 35 businesses willing to display the community member portraits.

Not to mention, roughly 245 community members were willing to share their smiling hat-adorned images with the project. Of the 245 people in the same number of prints, Black estimates she knew only  half. Without the community support and the kindness of strangers, Black said the project wouldn't have happened.

“It went really well in a short amount of time. In November I started pitching the idea to businesses and people. People started donating their money, space, time and faces to make this happen,” Black said. “I am amazed at this community.”

Now that all the photos have been taken, prints have been made and windows have been secured, Black concentrates her energy on hanging the images. Most of them can be seen along Fifth Avenue South, Second Street and Main Avenue.  While Black enjoys seeing her idea realized, some trying moments have sneaked into the hundreds of hours dedicated to the project. “There were definitely ups and downs,” Black said. “I hung the first 10 prints and my back hurt and I thought ‘I have 235 more of these to go.’”

Black embarked on the project to capture a cross section of the community. What she got was just that: teachers, elected officials, students, children, business owners. The wide array of characters makes it impossible for Black to pinpoint one favorite”

“I’ll see one and say ‘that’s my favorite.’ Then I’ll see another and say ‘that’s my favorite.’ Then I’ll see another,” Black said.

With nearly all the portraits on display, Black is ready to celebrate with the community that made the project possible and strengthened her love for Clinton.

A reception open to the public will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 2 at Zirkelbach Home Appliances. The prints will be on display until March 11.  

“The best part is that everybody’s excited,” Black said. “It’s bringing people together.”