Innovation Lab activity

MUSCATINE, IOWA (October 28, 2021) — Projects in development in 2021 are bringing public art — and the arts in the general — into the community spotlight. Earlier this year, the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium and Ballet Des Moines brought a ballet performance to the riverfront. The Muscatine Art Center celebrated the dedication of the new bronze sculpture, Expressive Spirit by David Zahn, with a performance by Step Afrika! in partnership with Hancher Auditorium. Now, the Muscatine Public Art Advisory Commission has news to share about two public art projects and an opportunity for community involvement in planning the future of the arts in Muscatine.

Last December, the Muscatine Public Art Advisory Commission announced a Call for Organizations to propose mural concepts for the retaining wall along the new Houser Street path between Hershey and Lucas. The Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery (FFFH) presented a concept exploring the history of the fish hatchery and Muscatine’s pearl button industry. Artist Janet Hoopes created the design, including buildings at the biological station. Hoopes has devoted many hours to scaling up the original drawing and painting it on the retaining wall. Sandy Stevens, President of the organization, as well as other FFFH volunteers have played supporting roles in bringing the mural to fruition. Hoopes hopes to complete the current phase of the project by November 1, 2021.

The Advisory Commission also released a Request for Qualifications in December 2020, seeking artists to prepare concepts for public art in the roundabout at Mulberry and Second. Seventeen artists responded to the RFQ — fourteen of which submitted complete applications. The Advisory Commission then worked with City departments to ensure that artists met criteria and would be capable of carrying out a project of this scale. Then, earlier in 2021, the three artists were selected to develop full concepts. The selected artists were Daniel Miller of Iowa City; Nathan Pierce of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; and Greg Mueller of Lutsen Mountain, Minnesota. 

“The concepts from the artists were submitted in September,” explains Melanie Alexander, City staff liaison to the Public Art Advisory Commission and Director of the Muscatine Art Center. “It was such a thrill to open the documents provided by each artist. The Advisory Committee was pleased to see three very different concepts, using different types of materials. Now, it is time for the Muscatine community to help make the final decision.”

An online survey to gather community input on three concepts is currently in development. The survey is scheduled to be released in mid-November with a window of more than a month for voting. A press release announcing the details of three concepts, biographies about the three artists, and the next steps for the roundabout installation will be distributed in mid-November.

The first opportunity to vote on the concepts will take place during the IDEAdash event set for November 16. “The IDEAdash is a community brainstorming session focusing on the arts in Muscatine,” says Alexander. “It’s a process that fosters innovation and creative thinking, led by staff from the Innovation Lab of Dubuque. The format is fast-paced and fun, and we hope many in the community will step forward to share their ideas.”

The IDEAdash will be held online from noon to 3:30PM and in-person at the Rendezvous, 4-7:30PM. No prior experience with public art or the arts in general is needed to participate. Information about the event can be found at It is necessary to register in advance through the Innovation Lab’s website. Space is limited to forty participants per session. The sessions are sponsored by the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Muscatine Art Center.

Questions regarding the mural, the process for the public art installation for the roundabout, and the IDEAdash may be directed to the Muscatine Art Center. Please call 563-263-8282 or e-mail Melanie Alexander at

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