Southside Mural to create a stronger community

With some art and a massive white wall, the South District Neighborhood Association hopes to strengthen community ties and change the narrative for local Iowa City street.


Emily Wangen

The future site of the Southside community mural is seen on Wednesday, June 5, 2019. The mural will be located off of Broadway St. by Faith Academy in Iowa City. (Emily Wangen/The Daily Iowan)

Austin J. Yerington, Arts Reporter

People speak of a blank canvas as being the embodiment of opportunity. A 4,000 square-foot canvas will be a pretty big opportunity, or that’s what Southside Iowa City is hoping for.

Members of the Southside district of Iowa City are fundraising for a community mural on the massive white wall courteous of Faith Academy, a local school and church.

With this way of creating a new and vibrant addition to the district, many organizations have come out to help assist with fundraising. Angie Jordan, a member of the South District Neighborhood Association, said their association has been a driving force in this project’s process.

“People in Iowa City love art,” Jordan said. “It’s not about black or white or rich or poor, it’s like ‘Everyone shut up, I love art!’ So it’s safe and understanding.”

This act of drawing a community together through the use of art has been something of mantra for the project. Those involved in the project are hoping to involve more than just local muralist Nick Meister. They also want to enlist the help of local school children from Grant Wood Elementary School, Alexander Elementary School, and Faith Academy.

“I really enjoy going through their [sketches] and seeing what they come up with,” Meister said. “Knowing what they want to see up on the wall, involves all the things we have talked about: community, family, courage. It’s really uplifting. I really enjoy it.”

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Not only is the community a big part of the draw for this mural, but also a huge supporter. Jordan originally hoped to reach their $10,000 goal in March of 2020, but with the help of the community, that goal may come way faster.

Southside district member Jessica Bovey has been thankful for many Iowa City organizations, like Moms Demand Action and Iowa City’s RAYGUN, rallying to help get donations. In just the three months since the Gofundme page started, the project has already received $6,688, with the largest private donation currently at $1,000.

“People love public art, and this neighborhood is ripe for it,” Bovey said. “So many other neighborhoods already have it. We are an established community that has been on and off the city’s radar for 50 years.”

With the mural planned to go up in summer 2020, the community will play a large role in its construction. Meister and Jordan are planning to have event days where the Southside residents can come out and paint on paint-by-numbers sections of the mural.

Jordan and Bovey said this community project was created with the hope to change the narrative that some feel the Southside carries. With many stories of crime that come out of this section of Iowa City, these residents are hoping to tear down some of those generalizations and create a place for both a new perception and growth for the community.

Even though it may not be another year until a brush touches a white brick wall, but this community is always eager to create a sense of community amongst their residents.

“[We’re] hoping to change the narrative of this street,” Jordan said. “The mural is a good way of saying ‘yeah, we like art too’ or ‘yeah we can organize and fundraise too.’”

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