IOWA CITY — After spending nearly three decades as a fixture in Iowa City’s former post office, Michael ‘Louie’ Grant’s mural has come down.
Grant, a former Longfellow kid, West High student and University of Iowa graduate, traveled from his current home in Boston, Mass., to Iowa City to remove the four-piece mural Wednesday from its longtime perch above the post office’s customer counter.
Having painted and installed the mural as a UI student back in 1988, Grant admitted he was surprised the art piece stayed in the post office all those years.
“I really didn’t think it would be there this whole time,” he said. “I’m surprised it lasted this long, but really, as an artist I’m still proud of that work that I did and I think it stood the test of time.”
With the help of longtime friends Tomas Lasansky, Jeff Kosier and Jeremy Norton, Grant’s mural was taken down Wednesday and moved to a private Iowa City residence for storage.
The mural will remain stored for a few years, before possibly returning to the Iowa City Federal Building after U.S. General Services Administration, the building’s owner, selects a new tenant to take over the former post office space.
“It might be in the same place, it might be in a different place, but starting tomorrow it will be taken down and stored,” Grant said Tuesday.
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Most murals are painted directly onto the surface they adorn and therefore can be lost in times of construction and demolition or simply with age. However, Grant’s project — created in the former UI School of Art building along the Iowa River — is portable by design because painting the mural directly above the customer counter would have been logistically challenging during post office business hours.
Grant’s mural, which is painted in black and white acrylic paint on four Masonite panels that span 32 feet in width, depicts an Iowa City landscape in four cross-sections — one of downtown, one of the GSA building, another focusing on the UI and the last a rural scene with sprawling fields.
The post office moved earlier this year out of the Federal Building, 400 S. Clinton St., and into a new home on southeast Iowa City’s Pepperwood Plaza. USPS’s lease at the Iowa City Federal Building — which cost the USPS $700,000 a year in rent — ended April 30 after the post office relocated to the smaller space at 925 Highway 6 E.
As for the Federal Building, negotiations are ongoing with a potential new tenant, said Charlie Cook, acting spokesman with GSA in Kansas City, Mo.
“We’re definitely working with a tenant and hope to be able to announce those plans really soon,” he said.
Cook said he couldn’t provide specific details on the prospective new tenant, but added that it will most likely be another federal entity and could be announced in the next few weeks.
Whether or not Grant’s mural finds its way back to the Federal Building is undetermined, but according to those who helped take the art piece down Wednesday, it will again hang proudly in Iowa City at some point.
“They’ll find a place for it,” Norton said. “It belongs somewhere, it’s just a matter of finding the right place.”