ELAISE: In the name of art

Although the Zenith of Muscatine will soon be installed at the Mulberry & 2nd roundabout downtown, I prefer to look at this event more as the dawning of a new era for the arts in our vibrant, promising community. The sunrises in our city are really extremely beautiful.

Jim Elias

Remember what Mark Twain wrote about muscatine:

“And I remember Muscatine—all the more fondly—for its summer sunsets.

I have never seen any on either side of the ocean to equal them.

They used the wide smooth river as a canvas and painted on it each

an imaginary dream of color, of colorful treats and delicacies

of opal, all the way up, through cumulative intensities, to blinding

purple and crimson fires that were charming to the eye,

People also read…

but he tried it sharply at the same time. … They also say that the sunrises are extremely beautiful.

from Chapter 57 Mississippi Life

In Muscatine, we like to claim that Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemons) is our local. Yet he lived here only briefly in the summer of 1854. He was only nineteen years old. He came to work for his brother Orion, who had purchased this newspaper a year earlier.

Sam Clemons did not become Mark Twain until 1863 and wrote about Muscatine twenty years after that. I also remember with fondness some of the things I did at nineteen. I suspect that young Clemens witnessed the sunsets of this mid-19th century river town more like the dawn of each new day, roaming the saloons of 2nd Street in search of a great story for the next day’s paper or a future literary masterpiece. .

I’m messing up. Or as some writers would say, I like to talk about Muscatine’s rich heritage in art.

Today, the morning sun shines brightly on many new artistic endeavors found in the public spaces of our city.

Muscatine’s Zenith is a sculpture created by artist Nathan Pierce of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and commissioned by the City of Muscatine through its Public Art Advisory Commission. In 2021, the Commission published a Request for Proposals (RFP) to which 14 artists submitted completed proposals for consideration. The Public Art Advisory Committee selected proposals that best met the project’s goals and demonstrated the experience of creating and installing this work. It established a process for public input on the project, the public voted, and the Commission gave that collective feedback to the City Council for final approval. The Zenith of Muscatine public art installation is not funded by the city’s general operating funds.

But what about other art projects in public spaces?

The Muscatine County Arts Council just finished installing this year’s Wandering Words sidewalk poetry. Poems by local writers were chosen to be engraved on public sidewalks in Muscatine.

The retaining wall on the Hauser Street hill has a new mural created by Muscatine artist Janet Hoopes. This was done for the Friends of the Fairport Fish Hatchery’s participation in the City of Muscatine Public Art Advisory Commission Call for Organizations. Community-based organizations were asked to take responsibility for a mural concept, commission one or more artists, and provide additional funding for the artist(s) if needed. The City of Muscatine provided funds to cover the cost of supplies.

This summer, the world’s largest watermelon was planted in Riverside Park. The project was managed by Brad Bark, Mayor and CEO of the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce; is manufactured by Muscatine’s Hoffman Inc.; and painted by local artist Johan Umana.

The Merrill Hotel features many works created by local artists and many other businesses support the efforts of our local artists. More on all this as my In the Name of Art talks continue.

The light shines brightly on the arts in our community. Visual artists, writers, creators of art in public spaces, musicians and all kinds of performers are many. Yes, the arts in our city are extremely good.

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