My Biz: University of Iowa graduate drawing her way into the community

Muralist's work spans children's bedroom walls to hospital waiting rooms

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MT. VERNON — When Stephanie Abresch painted the murals for the Manchester Memory Care Unit she had a purpose in mind.

“I knew I wanted nostalgic Iowa countryside scenes that might spark conversations and interaction for the residents and their families,” she recalled.

Abresch, a University of Iowa graduate who double majored in art and psychology, began her mural career 13 years ago when she did a painting for her family.

“My parents were very supportive of it as I was growing up, and I had quite a bit of creative freedom,” she said. “There was never a question in my mind that I would make a living as an artist from that time on.”

From giraffes, bears and butterflies to farmland harvest pictures and retro cafe scenes, her work has decorated everything from “hundreds of children’s bedrooms,” to doctors’ offices to Cedar Rapids restaurants such as the Las Glorias Hacienda. She frequently does projects for St. Luke’s Hospital as well as houses in the Parade of Homes, and she recently completed a large project for Zion United Christian Church in Lowden where she painted a Nativity scene in murals. Her repertoire also includes painting the sets used by the University of Iowa’s theater department. The Earlville native and mother of two does no preliminary sketch work before she begins a project.

“That is time-consuming and it limits my creative freedom,” she explained. “I don’t use projected images, no copies or anything like that, either.

“It’s all original work after the client and I have talked about what they want, and I’ve had a chance to look at the space and get a feel for what it needs.”

Abresch uses water-based acrylics. While she appreciates oil paints for the depth they can provide in the painting, the fumes can be hard on her and her clients.

“And the cleanup is ever so much faster and easier,” she laughed.

In addition to the larger mural projects, she also does portrait work as well as commissioned artwork. “I charge by the hour for all of my painting time,” she said. “I prefer to work on the honor system so I do not use contracts in my business.”

Despite a tough economy, Abresch says 2012 has seen her business pick up.

“People are choosing what is more important to them, and they are saving their money and spending it on what they really want,” she explained. “They still believe in treating themselves.”

In addition to painting, Abresch is also a practitioner for the healing arts of Reiki and Reflexology, and feels the three interact well for her.

“It all lends to the creativity,” she said. “I can’t say that one is more important than the other.”

Owner: Stephanie Abresch

Company: Artist For Hire — Stephanie Abresch

Address: 202 Seventh Ave. NW, Mt. Vernon

Phone: (319) 895-9445


Know manager or a business that’s been open for at least year that we should consider for “My Biz”? Contact business editor Michael Chevy Castranova at

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