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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Friends of Fairport Fish Hatchery honors history with mural

Margaret Hurlberthttps://discovermuscatine.com
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa—Typically, the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery focus their efforts around preserving the historical significance of the Hatchery and communicating it with others through onsite trails and displays. This summer though, the group pursued a new project to help them bring the history of the Hatchery to more people. In conjunction with the Muscatine Public Art Advisory Commission, the Friends put together a three-panel mural on Houser Street telling the Hatchery’s story.

Near the end of 2020, the Public Art Advisory Commission put out a call for submissions for organizations interested in creating murals on the recently poured retaining wall on Houser Street. When Sandy Stevens, a member of the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery, heard about the opportunity, he asked Janet Hoopes, an artist and his friend since high school, if she would help the Hatchery create a mural. “It seemed like it fit perfectly with the Friends group and just trying to educate people about the biological station,” Stevens said.

Hoopes welcomed the challenge. A Muscatine native, Hoopes grew seriously interested in painting in the early 90s while working in the building industry in Los Angeles. She specialized in marbleizing and wood graining, or faux bois, and also started creating murals as well.

After the Friends received permission to create their mural, they began work on it at the beginning of the summer. After cleaning and priming the wall, Hoopes worked on painting it for several months, completing her work at the beginning of November.

Her finished piece depicts many parts of the Hatchery’s past. The first panel identifies some of Muscatine’s top pearl button related spots, including the National Pearl Button Museum @ History and Industry Center. The next provides a rendering of the Hatchery circa 1914 when the federal government constructed it as a biological station. The third maps out the Hatchery as well as the interpretive walking trails that will allow people to experience its history first-hand. The final section shows four of the major fish that hosted the larva that grew into the mussels whose shells people harvested and used to make pearl buttons.

With the mural completed, the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery hope people will see it as they travel through town and grow curious about the significance of the Hatchery. “There’s a lot of history about the Fish Hatchery people don’t know and it’s very intriguing,” observed Hoopes.

“We’re very pleased, very fortunate to be selected, and very happy to share our story with everyone who drives by, whether they’re tourists or Muscatine residents,” added Stevens.

Since the Fairport Fish Hatchery has a long and colorful history, and since the retaining walls on Houser Street stretch well beyond the section Hoopes painted, the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery hope that in the future, they may have the opportunity to paint additional murals in the area. Hoopes looks forward to that possibility and would gladly accept the challenge of creating more murals should the Public Art Advisory Commission give them permission.

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