Arts & Culture

Local artist becomes mentor for Iowa City mural project

UAY Mural Project expected to be finished by mid-July

IOWA CITY — Iowa City artist Sayuri Sasaki Hemann said her latest project — an approximately 45 feet tall, 53 feet wide mural on a brick wall in downtown Iowa City — is one of her most ambitious projects so far.

If that wasn’t enough to accomplish, Sasaki Hemann’s mural has come together in collaboration with a dozen young artists with United Action for Youth, a nonprofit that provides area youths and parents with crisis and counseling services and support.

Sasaki Hemann said taking on the role of mentor has been challenging, but rewarding.

“It’s been hectic in terms of there’s a lot going on, but it’s been great because these kids have so much positive energy and they’re so vibrant. They love making art and they’re so excited to be there every day,” said the native of Osaka, Japan.

The UAY Mural Project was created in partnership with the Iowa City Downtown District, which reached out to UAY in an effort to incorporate public art from community partners in the downtown area.

“We feel it is powerful and important to give youth a real voice in their downtown’s urban fabric,” Thomas Agran, the downtown district’s public art director, said in a news release. “Public art is an expression of the vibrancy and vitality of our downtown and our community as a whole. Art makes this place a desirable place to live. We are thrilled to have Sayuri and UAY youth be part of this project.”

After gathering input from young artists earlier this year and designing the mural, work earlier this month began at UAY’s Eastdale Plaza location to paint fabric sections — known as Polytab — that soon will be attached to the actual mural, which is located on the building at 220 E. Washington St., overlooking the U.S. Bank parking lot near the corner of E. Washington and S. Linn streets.

Sasaki Hemann said the use of Polytab allowed students to be involved in painting the mural without having to be up on equipment near the wall.


“We have put so much thought into each little piece of the mural. We have been here in this space painting line by line, stroke by stroke, so I am excited to see it all come together on the gigantic wall,” Jaiden Spencer, 14, who helped paint the mural, said in a news release.

While rain has delayed some of the mural work, Sasaki Hemann said she hopes to have the project finished by mid-July.

When complete, the building’s brick wall will portray a colorful landscape lush with wildlife, including plants, birds and insects.

“It’s a symbol of our own ecosystem ... the community that you live in,” Sasaki Hemann said.

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