The result of a five year collaboration, the Larry Schlue Memorial Sound Park is the first sculptural work in downtown Belle Plaine. It is also the next step forward in the downtown vision that began in 2012, seeking to incorporate art and cultural elements amidst a thriving and walkable business district. More than a dozen organizations, many local stakeholders, and a 15-member volunteer art committee contributed to it.
An initial $4500 award was leveraged into over $120,000 spent in downtown revitalization — removal of a buried cistern, extensive regrading, improved site drainage, addition of a retaining wall and railing (for safety between the space and the Union Pacific railway line which has 70+ trains each day), installation of a handicap accessible walkway, six large metal art sculptures, and four public instruments.
The site was landscaped with native plants and work was contracted to local vendors using diverse funding sources. Los Angeles-based artist and Belle Plaine native John Schlue designed the space to fit the town’s self selected theme of Transportation. Schlue’s childhood was filled with the sound of transportation and his design reflects this nostalgia and encourages people of all ages to engage with the space to experience and create sound.
The Park is named after John Schlue’s father, Larry Schlue, who spent his life actively contributing to community vitality and who died just prior to the project completion. In the 1950s, the project site was home to Janss Meat Locker and McMahon Home Decorating. Today, it is an inclusive space for art and music and inspires more walking traffic which spurs both economic development and personal connection to downtown.