116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The City of Iowa City and the Iowa City airport are looking for artists to design and paint a 300-foot-long, 12-foot-tall mural on an airport hangar facing South Riverside Drive.
The goal of the mural is to create a large welcome for anyone entering the city from the south, as well bring more attention to the airport and the economic impact it has on the city.
“A lot of people don’t even notice the airport’s there, or they think it’s someplace that is just for rich people with planes to fly in and out and over the neighborhoods,” said Judy Pfohl, chair of the Iowa City Airport Commission. “We’re interested in trying to have (the mural) show some of the history, because (the airport has) been there for over 100 years and there’s been a lot of history.”
The Iowa City Airport isn’t a commercial airport, but Pfohl said it brings a lot of business to the city, especially through it’s partnerships with the University of Iowa. The airport works with the University of Iowa Hospital to provide emergency services transportation and provides space for flight training through the university.
Discussions about putting up a mural at the airport started around two years ago, according to Wendy Ford, the Economic Development and Public Art coordinator for Iowa City.
“It was a combination of the airport commission wanting to bring some attention to the airport, highlight it with public art, and at the same time the Public Art Advisory Committee, which I staff, was interested in commissioning some artwork for one of the gateways into Iowa City,” Ford said.
“Projects like this, they do take more planning than you imagine, and each of the commissions are decision-makers on their own and don’t necessarily meet together … Weeks turn into months and months into years really quickly.”
Pfohl said that the Airport Committee had been looking for ways to bring more attention to the airport, and she was inspired by other art she had seen around Iowa City, and decided to reach out to the Public Art Advisory Committee.
“We got this subcommittee together and started looking into it and realized that we had that long blue hangar that’s all along Riverside Drive, which would be a perfect backdrop for somebody to do an entrance and have some artwork or something so that as you’re coming into Iowa City it looks nice, it looks inviting,” Pfohl said.
In October of this year the groups were finally ready to start inviting artists to apply to work on the project. Artists who are interested can see the requirements and submit their application online. The deadline to submit applications is Nov. 14.
A selection committee, put together by the Airport Commission, will choose up to three applicants who will be paid a stipend of $500 to develop a concept for the mural. The committee will then pick which concept it prefers and hire that artist for the project.
The budget for the mural is $38,000, though not all of that money has been raised yet. The city’s Public Art Advisory Committee has committed $8,000 to the project, and the airport is planning to raise the rest of the money after the mural concept has been chosen. The design concept will be used as part of the fundraising process, when the airport will be reaching out to people and businesses who use the airport, asking for donations.
The canvas for the mural — the side of an airplane hangar — will present some interesting challenges for the artist that is chosen. The hangar is metal with vertical ribs every foot or so, which could make painting a two-dimensional image difficult. The hangar doors are not entirely airtight, so any airplanes inside the hangar will have to be covered while the artist is painting. The scheduling also will be tricky, since the painting can be happening when planes need to come and go from the hangar.
The theme of the mural is up to the interpretation of the artist, but the Airport Commission is hoping it will include details about the airport’s history.
“From what started off as an advertising stunt on leased space on somebody’s dairy farm, it got more serious all of a sudden in the part it played as being the first transcontinental stop on airmail flights and deliveries,” Ford said. “In World War II, we played a role in training Naval Air Cadets … and there was a lot of training and coordination between the University of Iowa and the airport, and that really established a strong connection with the university that carries on to this day.”
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