Iowa City paint-by-number mural spreads climate change awareness

A new climate action mural designed by local artist Erica Danner showcases the role composting can play in the fight against climate change.


Jeff Sigmund

The Climate Fest Community Mural, painted by volunteers, is seen on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. The mural is located on South Gilbert Court.

Natasha Keicher, News Reporter

A new Iowa City mural painted by volunteers was designed to show appreciation to Iowa City’s compost workers while building community.   

The process to create the mural, designed by local artist Erica Danner, began on Sept. 23 as one of Iowa City’s Climate Fest activities. The festival, held every September, was started to bring awareness to the effects of climate change and what the Iowa City Climate Action and Outreach Committee is doing to protect the environment. 

Iowa City Public Art Program Coordinator Marcia Bollinger said the mural was painted on the side of Iowa City’s composting and recycling truck storage facility on South Gilbert Court to brighten up the dull building.

Vivid colors like blues, pinks, and oranges create swirls around different designs of snails and worms while vibrant plants are brought to life with purple soils. 

“It is a very brightly colored mural and it’s got some really fun graphics in it with the bugs and creepy crawlers,” Bollinger said.

Climate Action Engagement Specialist Sarah Gardner said one of the goals of the mural was to bring the community together in the fight against climate change. 

One way the mural accomplishes community building, Gardner said, is the mural’s design as a paint-by-number project that was completed by volunteers. The painting was split into multiple sections titled with a number that corresponded with a specific paint color.  

“By making the mural paint-by-number, it allowed many different community members to get involved, so it was very much in the spirit of community action,” Gardner said.  

Around 120 volunteers registered to paint the mural in advance online, Gardner said. 

The number of registered volunteers was considered a win, she said, but the success of the event was from the number of people who happened to walk by and pick up a paint brush.

“We did have people who walked by and were interested and asked if they could join in, and of course we said yes,” she said. 

Bollinger said it was fun to see the range in ages and families involved in the event. 

“There were families of all age groups,” Bollinger said. “The younger kids did the lower portions that weren’t very detailed and the adults were higher up on the scaffolding doing the smaller stuff. It was just fun to be a part of.”

One of the many volunteer painters was Iowa City resident Stefania Acosta Ramírez, 34, who painted the mural with her family. She said she volunteered because she believed it was a good opportunity to teach her kids about the importance of climate change.

Acosta Ramírez’s favorite part about the event was that community members were able to paint the mural. Even if you’re not good at painting, you were still able to contribute and have fun, she said. 

“The act of taking the brush, or taking the paint, even though it’s a small action, gives you the opportunity to be a part of a community,” Acosta Ramírez said. “It’s beautiful.”