MUSCATINE, IOWA–Watching animated shows on Cartoon Network in fourth grade, Kimberly McCracken fell in love with their intricately drawn art styles. Though McCracken did not make it into her school’s gifted art club, she continued to develop her skills on her own. Looking for a sign that she should continue her artistic pursuits, she entered the fifth grade art show. Her work earned first place, beating out all of the gifted art students and others who had entered.
As McCracken grew up, her interests widened. She learned sewing from her mother and began creating costumes. She also developed a love for English, eventually earning a master’s degree in it. However, she never stopped creating and continued to make small pieces of art and digital drawings in her free time.
While scrolling through her news feed on Facebook, McCracken saw a call for submissions from Visit Roseville, Minnesota. The organization had an art contest going on and wanted to find 20 artists to decorate large rose statues that would grace the city for the summer and give walkers fun landmarks to visit. At the urging of her fiancé, she entered and later learned her entry had made the final cut. “Part of me still doesn’t quite believe this is all real,” she shared. “I’m still in disbelief that my design was chosen out of 80 others.””
Over the course of two days, McCracken painted her design on her rose. McCracken chose an Alice in Wonderland theme she felt represented her interests and would appeal to those who stop to see it: “I chose Alice in Wonderland because mostly everyone can readily identify the characters and symbols in the story without having actually read it. I wanted something that was appropriate for all ages and be something to bring everyone together. Plus, the statue being a rose was such a great tie-in to the novel because Alice has to paint the white roses red for the Queen.”
She also used her rose as a tribute to her late mother, who did much to foster her artistic talents: “My mother always supported everything I did, and I want a piece of her to live on, even if it is through my work. To me, art and literature are ways of immortalizing concepts, thoughts, and people. I hope in this way, my mother can live on forever.”
On June 23, Visit Roseville installed the finished roses in their final spots. In McCracken’s case, hers sits in front of the Ramsey County Library, a nod both to the rose’s literary theme and McCracken’s current job as an adult services librarian at Musser Public Library. “I am beyond honored that my design will be on display in Roseville, especially since it will be at the library,” McCracken said.
Though her painted rose represents her first major piece of art, McCracken has more ideas in the works. In the future, she hopes to combine her passion for art and writing to create a comic book series or to write and illustrate her own children’s book.