IOWA CITY — A new mural will be coming to a high-traffic area of downtown Iowa City.
In June, the Iowa City Downtown District, partnering with the Graduate Iowa City Hotel and AJ Capital Partners, released a request for proposals for a mural to be painted in the walkway connecting the downtown Pedestrian Mall with South Dubuque Street. Applications for the Graduate Hotel mural are being accepted until July 22.
“That space is one of these funny kind of urban spaces,” said Thomas Agran, director of public art for the downtown district. “It’s a small space, but it’s the only pathway that connects those two spots. There’s a lot of pedestrian traffic there.”
The request calls for a 75-foot mural with a $20,000 budget. Agran said conversations with Graduate Iowa City about the mural began about a year ago. It also coincides with the downtown district’s efforts to revitalize downtown alleys. Several murals have already gone up.
A news release calling for mural proposals encourages artists to “take risks in engaging residents and visitors, and tell untold or little known stories of Iowa City’s history, culture, aspirations and diversity.”
“The relationship with the client or commissioning agent can be really open-ended or specific,” said Agran, who has also painted murals. “In this instance, the Graduate values doing things that are a little bit out there. They left the creative parameters to the project quite open. I think they’re interested in a project that’s original, authentic and maybe a little bit unusual.”
The request also encourages women and minorities to apply.
“We just want to be sure the opportunities we put out there, that everybody feels welcome and that their voices and experiences are a welcome contribution to downtown,” Agran said.
Murals have been added to spaces downtown in recent years. While the downtown district is not the only organization commissioning murals, it was responsible for commissioning six mural projects in 2018. The downtown district has also commissioned three murals to go up in the Northside Marketplace. Work on one of those murals has already begun, Agran said.
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“We’re not the gatekeeper to public art,” he said. “We’re just working with people downtown to make a lot of these projects happen.”
Agran said murals can be transformative for a space and help it take on a different look and feel. They might also inspire people to look at spaces in their own neighborhoods differently and see opportunities for public art.
“They also don’t last forever,” he said. “These aren’t million-dollar public art sculptures. They can respond to the moment. In terms of this specific commission, murals are an opportunity to tell a story. We hope this one invites people to tell stories Iowa City hasn’t heard yet.”
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