Founded in 2006 by artist Joe Tuggle Lacina—and redesigned by Molly and Joe in 2011—for ten years Grin City Collective existed as an artist residency program of the Grinnell Area Arts Council. During the decade, the program provided 200 artists the time and space to work on their independent projects. When Molly joined in 2011, Grin City began to also develop its community-based creative work with projects like the Grinnell Public Art Initiative, Public Writing Public Libraries and the Rurally Good Festival. These projects were designed by Joe and Molly with the collaboration from their visiting artists and writers.

The Grin City Vision: “We think of our projects like potlucks. At a potluck, each person brings a different food that together makes a single delicious spread and a day of engaging conversation. Grin City uses the collaborative act of making—a sculpture, a play, a dinner, a garden—to bring communities together. Grin City believes that when a community comes together to share experiences, skills or stories, it is more likely to invest personally in the collective improvement of that community and the people who share it. When art-making is integrated into a community, that community thrives. When an artist experiences new communities and narratives, that artist thrives. In bringing these two groups together, Grin City strengthens both artists and the communities we care about.” 


In 2016, Grin City discontinued its artist retreat on the Lacina Farmstead to spend two years focusing entirely on community art projects, such as the Grin City Community Resource Guide, Social Crossings, and its Micro-Grant program. Because Joe and Molly’s paths were taking them in different directions, Grin City Collective finally ceased operation at the end of 2018.

During her seven years with Grin City, Molly did everything from executive functions such as fundraising, board development, community coordination, and program development to programmatic functions such as artist residency management, event planning, outreach and creative collaboration.

Promotion of the Grin City transition in 2016:



Social Crossings 2017

Artists Keva Fawkes, Purvi Shah and Anna Swanson interrogated what it means to be “free” in a historically abolitionist town. They interviewed POC, queer, low income and other traditionally marginalized members of the Grinnell community and asked a general audience what freedom is and who is free.


Community Resource Guide 2017

Rachel Buse, Freesia McKee and Molly Rideout designed a publication inspired by local phonebooks of decades past. This new book listed information and resources not traditionally found in a phonebook. LEARN MORE


Public Art Initiative 2016

To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Grin City commissioned four works of public art for Grinnell. Works included: “Footprints of Grinnell” by Tiberiu Chelcea @ Brown’s Shoe Fit; “Seed of Knowledge” by Stephanie Sailer @ Drake Community Library; “Snail Seat” by Bounnak Thammavong @ Relish; “Pink Milkwort (Polygala incarnata)” by Wilma Wyss @ GAAC (pictured)


Public Writing, Public Libraries 2014-2015

Lead by Molly Rideout, writers installed original work in vinyl at libraries around Iowa. LEARN MORE


Rurally Good Festival


An annual festival of music, art, literature, theatre and local foods featuring work by visiting artists, alumni and Iowans.


Weekly Potlucks

Every Friday night for four years, Grin City invited the local community to an evening meal at the Lacina Farmstead. Visitors broke bread and enjoyed a community-focused celebration with visiting artists.

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Pop-Up Gallery Shows

From the beginning, Grin City installed artists work around central Iowa for the community to see. Pop-up locations included abandoned storefronts, houses for sale, the Des Moines Social Club, Stewart Art Gallery, Prairie Canary, Science Center of Iowa and the Lacina Farmstead.


Open Studios

Grin City visiting artists always welcomed the public into their studios for a variety of events, including progressive meals, performances and talks.


Emerging Artist Residency

The EAR was a key component of Grin City since 2006. We provided college-aged artists a 1-month residency, stipend, and gallery show. This was the first non-college art experience for many of them.



Using the skills of our local community and visiting artists, Grin City hosted lessons in many areas including basic Arduino, mixology, composting, cheesemaking, and cooking with grasshoppers.


Free Shop 2011

Artists collected donated household items to give away during the Grinnell Farmers Market. Community members were invited to take anything they needed while enjoying face paint and live music. Part of the Emerging Artist Residency.


Free Bagel Stand 2012

Homemade bagels were given away to anyone who contributed to a temporary mural on the front lawn of the Grinnell Area Arts Council. Part of the Emerging Artist Residency.


The Chime 2013

Sarah Coote, Alex Hansen, Joe Lacina, and Tony Zappa designed and installed an interactive public sculpture in downtown Grinnell.


Vegetable Rickshaw 2013

Designed for Middle Way Farm, this bike-pedaled cart was intended for use delivering CSA shares and selling produce at the farmers market. Unfortunately, the rickshaw was, in the end, too heavy for functional use.


Community Garden Sign 2013

When the Grinnell Community Garden needed a face lift, our artists-in-residence stepped up to help.


Meskwaki Senior Garden Archway 2013

In partnership with the Meskwaki Nation, visiting artists worked with settlement school children to design and paint an archway to invite community members to enjoy their new senior garden. Project led by Joe Lacina.


Nano Hut 2012-2014

An experiment in tiny living designed by Joe Lacina with assistance from many visiting artists.


Nano Hut II (Nannoth) 2015

The Nano Hut received a face lift from Heidi Bartlett, Joe Lacina, and Ryann Slauson when they expanded it into a sort of trojan horse in the shape of the extinct wooly mammoths.


Fourth of July Celebrations

Every Fourth of July, Grin City and another local group, Tiny Circus, collaborated to throw a whimsical, glitter-filled celebration and dance party for friends and community members.


The Dock 2013

A dock that extends into the lake of alfalfa on the Lacina farmstead. Designed and built by Alex Hanson and Tony Zappa. Although not an official Grin City project, Tony & Alex’s sculpture became so iconic at Grin City, a visit wasn’t complete without a photograph on the dock.


Micro-Grants 2018

Grin City recognizes that there are amazing people doing creative, community-focused work all over east-central Iowa. We sponsored 10 projects of local creatives including public art installations, a community garden, gallery shows, a bike-art parade, a literary conference, and others.


Beating the Bully Within Us


Nike Desis, Molly Rideout, Lindsay Rowinksi, and Kenji Yoshino worked with Grinnell’s Davis Elementary School to discuss bullying and our own impulses that might bully. Each class designed their own piñata, and the final show featured an eight-foot-tall trojan horse piñata on display.

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Culture Lab 2014

Art + Science themed residency session with educational programming in Des Moines, Iowa City and Grinnell. Projects included a smart phone microscope, a biofeedback dance suit, fiberoptic neuron sculptures, a math-inspired short story, and models of bone structures.


Journey to the Sun 2014

An educational, skit-based performance celebrating the anniversary of Sputnik. This show gave us a look at our role in the solar system. Part of Culture Lab’s themed residency.


Primer Book 2012

An exquisite corpse book designed by visiting Emerging Artists and staff.