What ‘says Iola’ meeting’s focus



February 3, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Put your thinking caps on Thursday night. But make sure they’re loose, to allow for some expansive thinking.
Thursday is the first meeting of the Vision Iola movement to discuss Iola’s community identity.
What first impression do Iolans want to send about their town? Do we capitalize on its historic features or go for a more youthful image? Do we want our cultural institutions — the Bowlus Fine Arts Center and Allen County Historical Museums — to be given more prominence?
In essence, what can Iola use as its calling card?
Area examples include Fort Scott using its historic fort on all its promotional materials, including signage along its streets and parks.
Chanute promotes its aviation history with glider graphics as well as its connection to Osa and Martin Johnson, explorers of Africa.
Deciding on what would best portray the feel of Iola, or perhaps the promise of Iola, is the goal.
Organizers don’t expect a “definite consensus” to be reached Thursday night, said Carisa McMullen, owner of Paola-based Landworks Studio, which has been hired to facilitate the process of improving Iola’s signage, downtown area and streets and parks.
Thursday’s meeting should last about an hour, she said. It is open to all with a passion for their town.
McMullen hopes she will come away with a “clear direction” from which she and designer Dale Stafford can develop visual concepts that “say Iola.”
As soon as those ideas come to fruition, they will be posted on the Vision Iola Web site, visioniola.com.
Then on Feb. 25 she will present to Iolans the look — “still open for revision” — to be used on Iola signs, promotional materials and other visual aids.

SINCE FRIDAY, an interactive questionnaire has been on visioniola.com to get participants thinking about Iola’s signage and the role it plays in promoting locale.
Questions include: “Do you feel Iola’s best attributes are identified through existing signage?” and “Is there a particular community or style of signage that you feel could influence any new Iola signage?”
For those new to the Web site, all that is required to participate is one’s first name and his e-mail address.
That this discussion coincides with the Iola Area Chamber of Commerce’s plan for new billboards is good, McMullen said.
“We want to work closely with the Chamber” in sending a message of what best represents the community, she said.
McMullen is no stranger to Iola. Over the past year she has worked with Corey Schinstock, assistant city administrator, on a grant to extend the Prairie Rail Trail from Cofachique Park to Riverside Park. The grant request, in the neighborhood of $500,000, was submitted to the Kansas Department of Transportation in late December. News of its success is expected in June.
“You have some very passionate people there,” McMullen said of the Iolans she has met.

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