Muscatine "river monster" crawls into Iowa City

20-foot-long tentacles will be reaching over the Pedestrian mall as a display of public art

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IOWA CITY - Like a scene straight from a horror movie, large 20-foot-long pink tentacles will be reaching over the Pedestrian mall for the next several days.

But there is no need for alarm - it's just the Muscatine river monster moving into it's new home at 118 East College Street, directly above the former Vito's bar.

Also known as "the kraken," the river monster is a large scale public art display meant to stop people in their tracks, encourage conversation and show that creativity is valued in the local community says Andrew Anderson, 34, of Muscatine.

"The 'monster' is a fun visual experience," Anderson said. "But I want people to know that there is also a story behind it."

Anderson says that he worked alongside fellow Muscatine native Jacob Lane, 22, for over six months to create and sew the inflatable version of the beast.

"There were a lot of very long nights and very tired fingers from sewing," Lane said.

The legend of the "actual Muscatine river monster" first dates back to 1838, when a large beast was allegedly seen churning the water of the Mississippi. Later that year, the sawmill industry put Muscatine on the map.

In 1891 and in 1911, "the kraken" allegedly appeared again, just as the town was preparing to usher itself into new types of industry. Muscatine residents succeeded in their ventures each time, and as such, seeing the monster became synonymous with having good luck.

"Instead of dying away as businesses changed, the town would move into a new phase," Anderson said. "We wanted to throw light at a progression of the story by making the sculpture."

Anderson says that while the river monster sculpture is supposed to bring a smile to viewers' faces and maybe get a laugh, the ultimate hope is that it will act as a reminder about creative people who have shaped the Midwest.

"The Midwest is, and has been, a great place for artists and creative people," Anderson said.

Iowa City business developer Marc Moen, this week's river monster sponsor, says that although he had not heard of the river monster until recently, he believes that the project is a fun opportunity for locals to enjoy.

"I love public art because it opens up imaginations," he said. "I think it's very important to do downtown where there are so many people, because it opens it up for everybody."

Anderson says that although the river monster's time in Iowa City is relatively short, he hopes that people will stop by, take a look and embrace their own creative ideas that can transform and make a difference.

"The big take away is that I want people to feel the freedom to pursue their creative ideas," Anderson said. "I hope they recognize that following their creative instincts is a really valuable thing."


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