The Consultative Commission for the Arts opens the vote on the statue of the roundabout

MUSCATINE, Iowa — During their Nov. 16 IDEAdash, the Public Art Advisory Board unveiled the three possible design choices for a sculpture for the Mulberry Avenue roundabout. Initially, the commission hoped to organize the IDEAdash before the artists submitted concepts in April 2020, but the emergence of COVID-19 caused them to rework their process. Now the commission has concept art for each of the three sculptures, “Zenith” by Nathan Pierce, “Fire Island” by Greg Mueller, and “Old Man River” by Daniel Miller. From now until January 10, 2022, Muscatine residents can vote for the sculpture they would most like to see added to the roundabout either in line or in person at Muscatine Arts Center, Musser Public Library, and HNI Community Center, or Sunrise Galleries.

For their first major public art project, the commission focused on finding a regional artist (from Iowa or a neighboring state) who had a history of successful public art projects. Of the 17 requests for qualifying responses, the commission considered Pierce of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Greg Mueller of Lutsen Mountain, Minnesota, and Daniel Miller of Iowa City to be the most likely to pass the draft. Although the commission chose not to work with local artists for this project, they hoped it would spark interest in future public art projects that could have more interaction between local and regional artists. “We were looking for artists who had experience installing art in other communities,” said Melanie Alexander, director of the Muscatine Art Center. “It was important for us to choose someone with a proven track record.”

Once the voting period is over and the commission has reviewed the responses it received through the online and print surveys, it will choose to recommend a design to Muscatine City Council. Although the votes will play an important role in guiding the commission’s decision, Alexander explained that other factors could also influence the commission’s choice. “The vote will weigh heavily on the decision, but there are certainly other factors that may come into play,” she said. Due to the important role votes will have in deciding the commission, Alexander reminds anyone with strong feelings about the sculptures to vote, as casual conversations and social media posts will not be considered in the decision-making process.

The city will then decide whether or not to proceed with the chosen design and how it will finance it. Currently, Alexander says the commission has begun applying for grants and connecting with potential private donors to offset the cost of building the sculpture. If the project receives city approval and adequate funding, Alexander predicts work will begin in late 2021.

As the Public Art Advisory Commission takes its first steps towards filling the Mulberry Avenue roundabout with art, Alexander looks forward to seeing many people take an interest in public art and share their opinions on the works proposed via the survey. “It’s a way for us to understand what resonates with the local community,” she said. “I feel like all three (pieces) tried to explore what makes Muscatine a different kind of place.”

Aurora J. William