MUSCATINE, Iowa–Though the COVID-19 pandemic has caused people to physically distance themselves from each other, Who Arted? in downtown Muscatne hopes to bring people together through shared experiences with public art. From outdoor creations people can enjoy from afar to online tutorials to help people get creative wherever they find themselves, Who Arted? plans to use this challenging time to help grow Muscatine’s art community.
Across the country, cities have found themselves struggling because of drops in tourism, among other things. By putting Muscatine on the map as an art hot spot, Who Arted? hopes to spur an uptick in tourism when it becomes safe for people to travel again. Flinn Collier of Who Arted? explained their goal as to, “create a lot of public art to make Muscatine indescribably awesome, because people return to places they can’t describe.”
To realize this dream, Collier and other local artists have worked hard on several public art displays to spark community and wider interest. From doing tempera paint stenciling around town to support the Spreading Joy Walks and to grace the entryway of the National Pearl Button Museum @ History and Industry Museum to dressing up the Mississippi Harvest statue with a face mask and an over-sized roll of toilet paper (he previously sported a Who Arted? life vest during the historic flood of 2019) Who Arted? has given locals fun pieces to enjoy and to share out online. In their most ambitious project yet, they plan to make a large rubber ducky floaty filled with plastic litter found around Muscatine both to make something eye-popping and to raise awareness for the importance of protecting the environment.
In order to fund these and future projects, and to bring art to those in isolation, Who Arted? started a Patreon page. For a donation of $3, $10, or $15 each month, subscribers can view art tutorials for projects they can do themselves at home. So far, videos have featured straw sculptures, wire and button trees inspired by the National Pearl Button Museum, and stepping stones. As an added bonus, subscribers can watch time lapse videos of Who Arted? artists working on their public art projects. For those who subscribe at the $10 and $15 level, they may vote on future content and projects they want to see.
As interest and public support continue to grow on the Patreon page, Who Arted? hopes to expand their current studio into a public maker space where local artists could potentially rent time with various tools or eventually have a membership allowing them to use the space more extensively. “We want to help, especially as we come out of economic shutdown,” emphasized Collier. “We want to connect the people in Muscatine to make a stronger art community.”