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Iowa City to unveil mural celebrating art, technology

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Iowa City’s Mercer Aquatic Center will unveil a STEAM-y new mural today.

By Andy Mitchell

andrew-mitchell@uiowa.edu

Iowa City’s Mercer Aquatic Center will cut the ribbon today on a nearly yearlong mural project by artist Jo Myers-Walker and the University of Iowa College of Engineering NEXUS Program. The new mural will be based on the principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.

The mural will be officially unveiled today at 10:15 a.m.

In February, Myers-Walker was asked to start the project with the intention of showing Mercer as “light, airy, and full of fun and whimsy.”

Myers-Walker then started to collaborate with NEXUS, joined by artist Deanne Wortman, UI engineering students Whitney Ryan and Grace Weiland, and engineering specialist John Kostman.

NEXUS is an intersection between engineering and art.

“We have a call to do more STEAM-related activities and programs,” said Chad Dyson, the Iowa City recreation superintendent. “It’s a great interactive offering for kids and a great addition to the center.”

The mural included interactive moving parts; Ryan designed cuts for the Lexan panels to show moving cars and swimmers.

“I think engineers are artists even if they don’t know it,” Myers-Walker said. “As an artist, I have to be a bit of an engineer.”

She has worked on three other art projects for Iowa City, including a painting of UI mascot Herky for an Iowa City parking ramp.

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Myers-Walker drew and painted on the back of the panels depicting the sights she had seen at Mercer as an everyday visitor.

“On the upper panels, I drew downtown Iowa City with the Courthouse, Old Capitol, and Clock Tower,” Myers-Walker wrote in an email to *The Daily Iowan*. “On the top panels, I painted the sun and Moon along with a mosque, synagogue, church, and temple to represent the different Iowa City cultures.”

She called the mural “very busy.”

“For me this was a gift to celebrate joy and playfulness and to be creative during these disturbing times of suffering,” Myers-Walker said. “Creating art is meditative, reflective, and helps ground me.”

Kostman said he enjoyed helping work on the project, providing guiding input on the mechanical aspects of the project, such as the use of materials and assembly.

“It was an interesting experience for me,” Kostman said. “I didn’t really have experience in anything artistic. It was a little outside my day-to-day business.”

Kostman also said he was proud of the efforts of Ryan.

“She was excellent,” Kostman said. “She really took control.”

In August Devin Walker built the supporting wood structure for the panels from Ryan’s computer designs, and the frame was moved to Mercer and had the LED lights installed by Advanced Electric.

Myers-Walker said the lighting was very important to create the energy of Mercer’s color and excitement.

“I experienced a sense of oneness with the Mercer family and the Iowa City community that gave me a sense of grace and solace,” Myers-Walker said.

The mural will take the place of an old display area at Mercer.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Dyson said. “We’re excited about the ribbon-cutting and to officially unveil it.”

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