MUSCATINE, Iowa–An active part of the community for decades, the Muscatine Prevent Violence Coalition works to end violence of all kinds in the area by getting people involved in positive activities. Over the past year, the organization has focused their efforts on connecting with elementary school students. As they developed their outreach programs, member Shawn Lucas shared that they came up with the slogan, “nice is the new cool.” It resonated with the kids, so they kept using it, incorporating it wherever they could.
This summer, the Coalition knew they wanted to go big, sharing their message that nice is the new cool with the entire community. Inspired by the balloon mural they saw on the side of Pearl City Tattoo Lounge, they contacted Bill and Samantha Kaufmann, the shop’s owners, as well as Johan Umana, visual arts pastor at Calvary Church and the painter of the original mural.
The Kaufmann’s welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with them. They offered the coalition the remaining open space on the wall of their building as a site for the mural, helped them purchase the supplies necessary to paint it, and worked to spread the word about the new mural through social media.
Umana embraced the opportunity to help the Coalition with their project as well. Umana sat down with Lucas and others to discuss what they wanted to see in the mural. He created a design for them, prominently featuring their nice is the new cool message as well as a larger than life panda, a symbol of kindness in many cultures. “Right now, especially in the last couple of years, we need a lot of kindness and love and inclusion in the Muscatine Community,” emphasized Umana.
A large piece complicated by rainy weather, Umana spent the equivalent of five days completing the mural. Despite the weather delays, Umana felt the mural turned out well and takes great pride in his work. “For me as an artist, the challenge is to translate what I have on paper to the wall because it’s a big canvas,” he explained. “Now, it’s one of my favorite walls in Muscatine.”
The members of the Coalition were pleased with how the mural turned out, and believe it encapsulates their message perfectly. “If Muscatine could be known for one thing, this is it,” stressed Lucas.
When the Kaufmanns had Umana create the balloon mural, they loved that the community could interact with it by posing for photos with the balloons. Similarly, they enjoy that this new mural has an interactive feature as well. Umana created the panda’s balloon using chalkboard paint so that passers by can write inspiring messages in it and pass it along to everyone who walks down the corner of Cedar and Second Streets. This summer, the Kaufmanns hope people make a point of stopping by the new mural and having fun with its interactive feature, giving people one more reason to enjoy the downtown area.