Beautification & Wayfinding

With local events, tournaments, tourism comes the opportunity to present your community as an excellent place to live. The community has already taken great effort in past projects and shows the quality of life through things like the Lacy complex, the Mahaska County recreation trail, the George daily auditorium, the alley, a wide variety of public events, the Urban Park, public art, the Simply Brilliant brand as well as wayfinding signs across the community.  

With these impressive existing amenities in place the city should consider investing in beautification, wayfinding and key visual elements further expressing the high quality of life that can be found in a city that invests in itself and its citizens. 

Overall themes for Oskaloosa beautification and wayfinding efforts should focus on: the Oskaloosa Simply Brilliant brand elements, Public Art, Lights & Sound.

Gateway Beautification 

As a result of the transfer of jurisdiction of the major highways through town, the city will have slower and less traffic, more economic opportunity and safer roads for all forms of transportation. With this process it will be important to prioritize gateway beautification and wayfinding elements into future plans creating a welcoming entrance and an easy to navigate, aesthetically pleasing community.  

Special focus should be considered at the intersection of Hwy 92 and Hwy 63 as the main thoroughfares as well as gateways to the downtown district. Currently, there are no special features at this intersection, making it easy to drive past downtown on Hwy 92 without knowing it is there or drive into downtown on Hwy 63 without knowing it’s coming up.  

For a unique and artistic element representing both the Oskaloosa Simply Brilliant Brand and the history of the community, we recommend incorporating LED lights and sound into the design. At night, the base of the signals would light up with a rotating display of the Oskaloosa Simply Brilliant color palette and design at its base. Additionally, when the crosswalk indicates it’s safe to proceed, the same colored light palette could be projected across the crosswalk with musical elements playing, such as the Oskaloosa city band.  

Future recommendations: Create a city-wide beautification plan extending the design elements as below.  

92 63 Render
Overhead Installation in Alley

The Alley 

A local group of citizens has already done a tremendous job on the alley project, a unique community gathering space that hosts all kinds of eventsTo highlight this unique feature and extend its prominence and usage, the alley entrance should be extended both in the intersecting alleyway as well as across Market Street with a streetscaped crosswalk and other artistic and landscaping elements 

Streetscaping between the Alley and the square enhances both amenities, creates emphasis on these important community features, and creates a safe pedestrian friendly connection. The crosswalk could include a painted or colored concrete design similar to the intersection of Hwy 63 & 92, traffic calming bump-outs for mid-block pedestrian crossing, landscaping and planters, monument markers, dancing colored lights with music at night, outdoor patio furniture/seating and gathering spaces on both sides.  

Further enhancements in The Alley could include murals, lighting features, dancing lights mimicking theuni crosswalks, green walls to soften the brick, an overhead canopy and art installation to support use in various weather conditions, a performance stage, moveable pallet furniture and community tables, game spaces/activity areas and a painted or paved ground design that extends out onto the sidewalks of High Ave W and 1st Ave. W to create inviting and intriguing entrances.  

The trash dumpsters currently at the intersection should be relocated and consolidated into one place on either the north or south entrance of the alleyway creating a more usable space in the alleyway cross section.  

All design elements should use the Oskaloosa Simply Brilliant color palette as a basis for consistency in the community brand.  

Future recommendations: Add garage door to the mall entrance through the alley that could be open in the spring and fall. Possibly create space inside the east side of the mall for food trucks creating an indoor/outdoor space into a flowing environment.   

Park Access Alley Render
Park Access Streetview Render


The Square/ Bandshell Park

The bandshell is a historic and deeply loved part of Oskaloosa’s culture featuring many events including live music by the city band every Thursday evening in the summer, a tradition since 1864 

The square around the bandshell is already a beautiful public place with plenty of benches for seating, however, the city should prioritize adding a few key elements to activate the space and draw people into this beautiful space to gather, play and meet when events aren’t happening.  

There are many great examples from around the world of interactive art installments that people of all ages love to engage with. This could be a truly unique, modern draw to the beautiful, historic square.  

Elements could include; more tables and chairs, play scaping for children and adults of all ages, additional landscaping and an interactive musical sculpture. The piece could even include music recorded from the historic city band in sync with dancing lights on the ground similar to the crosswalk designs.  

Adult Play
Adult Play
Mural Inspiration
Painted Piano
Painted Alley

Public Mural Program 

Murals help transform underutilized spaces into public destinations, increasing traffic to the destination and providing a sense of place by reinforcing the character of a community.  

FACE should consider engaging mural artists, possibly as a part of the Artist in Residency program, to be commissioned for public pieces beginning on the North and East sides of the Art Center and then expanding down the alleyway. Currently, the Art Center is very difficult to find and the exterior of the building does not match the energy and creativity of the interior.  

Similar to the residency program, national networks exist to publicize RFPs for mural opportunities. Alternatively, the murals may provide an excellent opportunity to partner with William Penn Humanities students, specifically around community engagement and public art.  

PRICING: Murals normally cost between $10–$20 per square foot.* Several factors influence the price of a mural, including size, location, intricacy of design and time spent communicating with the public on the design, and wall preparation. In order to minimize additional costs, consider offering to prepare the wall – patching holes, removing contaminants, priming – in consultation with the artist. In the mural RFP, the Art Exchange can either request a quote as part of an application or set a budget within the RFP – both are common and acceptable. *Please note this cost is an estimate.  

Once the Art Center and alleyway murals are complete, the program should be expanded city-wide, creating an additional dimension of public art to the existing sculpture tour. Murals should not be limited to walls, this program could also include painted crosswalks, sidewalks, bike lanes, public pianos, bike racks, planters and more.  

Beyond grant sources, sponsors of capital or materials, murals are also traditionally funded through city initiatives such as use of discretionary funds.  

Please refer to the Public Mural Handbook for more information on price, artist selection, design, and community participation.  

Future recommendations: The south side of the Arts Center building should feature better signage such as a vintage light up sign that sticks out from the building and would be visible from Market Street and possibly a lighted mural featuring a rotating projected façade.

These lighted murals could also be an excellent addition to the entire square especially as a part of the lighted holiday festival. Lighted mural shows could be year-round or seasonal featuring a nightly or weekly show displayed on the courthouse.

Action Steps


City of Oskaloosa

Identify funding for streetscaping master plan for downtown and major gateways


City of Oskaloosa, Landscape Architect

Master Plan including phasing recomendations, identification of design elements, existing condition analysis, community engagement/feedback, precedent exploration, full design recommendations, preliminary opinion of cost and assistance with identifying resources.


City of Oskaloosa

Obtain cost estimates. Consider maintenance costs of all items.

City establishes funding with existing City budgets or acquires funding or grants (IDOT or otherwise) to advance with streetscaping construction

Develop fundraising goal and roadmap, targeting a mix of local, state, and federal supporters. Share status updates throughout campaign to maintain and build excitement around project.


City of Oskaloosa, Landscape Architect, Construction Crew

Kick off full design, utility coordination, construction documentation and construction of the project phases as identified during the master planning process.


City and community volunteers

Hold community celebration upon completion of phase one; consider partnering with the Iowa River Trail team to celebrate progress on the trail and on the beautification of New Providence.