Cedar Rapids Trail in Midst of Securing Second Installation

By Diana Nollen, Cedar Rapids Gazette

The first installation of the Cedar Rapids Mural Trail, “Entering the Eras,” was unveiled May 19, 2012, on Third Street SE. The 3D piece by Bounnak Thammavong of Iowa City and Mike Sneller of Cedar Rapids juts out from a wall over the alley between Second and Third avenues, abutting the Armstrong building and Deb’s Deli.

What’s happened since

The Cedar Rapids Mural Trail is about to double in size.

Fundraising is underway to finance a second artwork on the Fourth Avenue Parkade across from the Paramount Theatre’s Encore Lounge. Appropriately, this mural appropriately will celebrate the city’s arts heritage and is targeted for completion later this year.

“We’re about halfway to our (fundraising) goal,” said Mike Mesch of Cedar Rapids, the project’s volunteer co-director. “At our next meeting, we’re going to get real serious about figuring out what we want the art to look like.” 

Then they can begin approaching Iowa artists to participate.

As with the first piece, which depicts key people who shaped the city from 1900 to the 1920s, the second installment will look to the past. Plans detailed in 2012 call for 27 works when the trail is completed, featuring nine murals in each of three phases — Cedar Rapids from 1837 to the 1920s; 1930s to the present; and looking toward the future. 

The works become the property of the building owners to display and maintain, but Murals & More, the grass roots organization behind the trail, retains right of first refusal if the building is sold or the artwork needs to be moved.

The first work, made of metal and marine-grade paint, cost $20,000 in artists’ fees and materials. Funding came from a Cedar Rapids Community Foundation grant and donations from Armstrong building owner Jon Dusek and project founders Lynn and Bob Ocken.

Fundraising goal for the new piece is running between $80,000 and $100,000, said Mesch, a certified public accountant with Terry Lockridge & Dunn accounting firm in Cedar Rapids. That will pay for the design, construction and placement. The project again will be financed by donations, boosted by an art auction that cleared about $5,000 last November and a student art walk planned for April 16.

The art walk is the “more” in Murals & More. Judges will choose 50 designs by area students, to be displayed on banners along the Downtown Farmers Market route from May through September. 

Each will follow an arts theme and contain the private or corporate donor’s name or logo. Sponsorships are $500 per banner.

Mesch said response to the inaugural mural and banners has been very positive, with the overarching comment being that “it’s great that we’re adding to the art in downtown Cedar Rapids.”

“I think that’s the best thing — that we’re taking a space that had been empty and filling it with art,” Mesch said.

Other goals include increasing the exposure of art that’s already downtown; to create new art; and to incorporate children’s art in the project and to recognize their efforts.

Mesch was recruited by friends on the board and joined in August 2013.

“I’ve always liked art, I like theater, I like music, and drawing as a child,” he said. “This is something I can get my mind wrapped around and be more passionate about than some of other opportunities that I had. 

“I’m an accountant, so it’s nice to use that other side of my brain.

Want to get involved?

Volunteers are needed for everything from board positions and fundraising to event planning and staffing tables during the downtown farmers markets. The not-for-profit also welcomes tax-deductible donations. Go to the Murals & More Facebook page.

To read this article on the Cedar Rapids Gazette's website, click HERE.