MUSCATINE, Iowa–Even before work began on the Mulberry Avenue roundabout, the City and the Public Art Advisory Committee started discussing placing a public art installation in its large center space. When work wrapped up on a retaining wall on Houser Street as part of the West Side Trail Project, the Committee identified it as an excellent spot for murals, as public art not only adds beauty to a space but reduces the risk for vandalization. In the weeks ahead, the Committee looks forward to taking their next steps on these projects.
According to Muscatine Art Center Director Melanie Alexander, who also sits on the Public Art Advisory Committee, choosing murals for the retaining wall proved straightforward. Only a few organizations applied to paint the space. After considering their options, the Committee chose two different artists to make murals on the retaining wall. Janet Hoopes, on behalf of the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery, will create an image depicting the history of the hatchery and the role it played in the pearl button industry when it first opened as a biological station. Johan Umana of Calvary Church, on behalf of the Muscatine Prevent Violence Coalition will create the second mural, which will promote love and peace in the community. Alexander hopes that by partnering with local artists that the community will feel connected with these pieces.
Finding a suitable piece of art to go in the roundabout proved a more difficult task. Though the request for proposals that went out specifically requested regional artists, people from as far away as California and even China applied for consideration. As the Committee worked to whittle their choices down, they focused on artists from Iowa or a bordering state, those who had successfully completed public art projects before, and those willing to work to make a piece uniquely suited both to Muscatine and to the constraints of the roundabout.
After careful deliberation, the Committee selected Greg Mueller of Minnesota, Daniel Miller of the University of Iowa, and Nathan Pierce of Missouri as their three finalists. The Committee requested each artist submit a design by Sept 7. Later that month, Alexander hopes to start holding a series of idea dashes where people can share their thoughts and indicate which design they prefer. Over the next several months, Alexander will also work to get a grant for the final sculpture’s installation. Currently an Impact Grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine will cover the cost of the sculptor’s stipend.
As both projects come to life, Alexander hopes the community will share in her enthusiasm for both of them and for further opportunities as well. “I think it’s exciting that we’re setting the community up for more public art projects in the future,” she stated.