Naturally Iowa Grain Bin Gateway
After almost four years of planning and fundraising, Main Street Coon Rapids (MSCR) volunteers and Coon Rapids community members gathered for the dedication of the Naturally Iowa Grain Bin Gateway mural on Saturday, October 22.
The Naturally Iowa Grain Bin Gateway project is a 360-degree mural commissioned on the side of two grain bins located at the entrance to Coon Rapids downtown at the corner of Highway Street and Sixth Avenue. The concept of the Naturally Iowa Grain Bin Gateway started in 2018 when four volunteers drove around Coon Rapids looking at all the locations in town that would be good fits for large scale art.
“We knew right away that these bins would be a spectacular medium for a large-scale art project,” said Katie Mason, the MSCR Executive Director. “At the same time, we were working on the Main Street Iowa application and knew that our focus in Coon Rapids was shifting towards downtown revitalization, so putting a mural on these bins would not only make for a great mural setting, but also aid in the downtown revitalization efforts.”
The bins are owned by Charlotte and Todd Heck of Coon Rapids. After getting permission from Hecks to put artwork on their bins, a committee was formed and went to work. For an entire year, the art committee -- consisting of Liz Garst, Jes Leighty, Charlotte Heck, Ali Carpenter, Cory Sanden and Mason -- researched a variety of art forms. They considered metal art that could be welded to the bins, massive banners that would be adhered to the bins and even spent a lot of time looking into projection technology that would allow them to project images onto the bins.
The bins are 40 feet tall and 30 feet in diameter for a combined surface area of 7,536 square feet.
“There are a lot of factors to consider when putting a 360-degree panoramic artwork on that much square footage, especially considering the bins are still actively used for grain storage,” Mason explained.
By early 2020 they decided to commission a painted mural and developed the artwork for the bins. The art committee agreed that in addition to beautification of downtown, the art they created on the bins should reflect the history and culture of Coon Rapids. Coon Rapids has a rich agricultural history and currently is becoming recognized as the hometown of the great outdoors thanks to Whiterock Conservancy. WRC attracts 15,000 visitors from around the Midwest who use their hiking, biking and equestrian trails, campgrounds, star gazing fields and Middle Raccoon River access points.
Therefore, the artist’s renderings for the grain bin include scenes that flow around each bin to the next in a 360-degree panorama. From the west, you will first see Coon Rapids logo that includes the tag line “Naturally Iowa”. Beneath the logo at the base of the bins are cattails and water grasses surrounding a canoe paddled by a couple. That flows into the second bin painted with a large tree and a family of four on bicycles followed by their dog. This rounds the corner into a mom and daughter catching butterflies under another tree. A flock of geese fly above the canopy in both scenes. The mural continues back onto the first bin which depicts a father and son looking through a telescope into the stary night beside a windmill. All of these elements are black silhouettes on a silver background coinciding with existing black silhouette artwork on Main Street.
After the artwork was created, that’s when the hard work began, raising almost $77,000 for the project.Creating Great Places was the first major donor, giving $26,000 to the project which allowed MSCR the matching funds to start applying for grants. Over the next two years, they received more donations including $5,700 from the City of Coon Rapids and $5,000 from Main Street Coon Rapids. They received grants from the Community Foundation of Carroll County, Warren H Timmerman Charitable Trust Grant and Paint Iowa Beautiful. Early this year, they were able to wrap up the fundraising with a $10,000 Given in Gratitude grant and the in-kind donation of a lift from Doug Halverson worth $12,000. There were an additional 73 donors who invested in this project.
“With the funding in place and good weather, the magician with a paint brush began the real work,” said Mason of Mark Bauer with Bauer Painting who was commissioned to create the mural. Bauer had to clean the bins and repair rust spots prior to painting. He then applied the silver primer and went to the task of painting the silhouettes. To apply the images he traced stencils or projected the image onto the building. The he painstakingly painted all the images by hand. Bauer began work on the bins in July and completed the work mid-October.
MSCR celebrated the completion of the project with a dedication ceremony on Saturday, October 22. At the ceremony, Bauer was presented with a golden paint brush in appreciation of his work on the bins. MSCR also invited all financial donors of the project to attend the ceremony where they could sign a donor panel. The panel will be installed on the side of the bin at a later date once all donors have signed the panel.
Public art gives a community a unique identity, makes it more inviting and creates civic pride. Art in a public space makes it attractive for economic development and has been shown to add value to all the surrounding assets.