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Contract moves mural project forward

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
The Fort Dodge Grain Terminal sign is painted on the side of a grain elevator along Hawkeye Avenue. A new mural featuring images of local people will be painted on the elevator.

A drab gray collection of grain silos that’s loomed over Hawkeye Avenue for decades will be covered later this year by a mural featuring images of local people.

The mural, to be created by Australian artist Guido van Helten, will be applied to the grain silos in late summer or early fall.

Van Helten will be in Fort Dodge in August or September to personally do the painting. Once he gets started, it will take about a month for him to finish, according to Carissa Harvey, the senior city planner.

The City Council on Monday cleared the way for the project by unanimously approving an agreement with van Helten and authorizing the first payment of his $131,993 fee. That money is coming from grants and donations, not local property taxes.

“This will make a great impact on our future development of the Third Avenue Northwest corridor,” Councilman Terry Moehnke said.

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
A large mural featuring images of local people will be painted on this old grain elevator along Hawkeye Avenue later this summer. The Fort Dodge City Council approved the project Monday.

The project is one of the first elements of the Northwest River District plan to be implemented.

The grain silos, which have the name Fort Dodge Grain Terminal painted on them, are along Hawkeye Avenue at the south end of Loomis Park. They are 110 feet tall, according to Harvey.

“This will be the only Guido van Helten mural in Iowa and the largest mural in Iowa,” Mayor Matt Bemrich said in a written statement. He was absent from Monday’s council meeting.

“This provides Fort Dodge with the opportunity to not only clean up an abandoned structure, but to turn this unique place into a creative place, adding to the mix of quality of life features in our community,” Bemrich added.

Harvey said images of five local people based on photographs taken by van Helten will be painted on the silos. Van Helten took the photos last year when he visited Fort Dodge.

“It’s important for me to create a piece that is accurate and honest, serving as a real representation of the community,” van Helten said in a written statement. “This piece and many others I create are a social message in promoting the everyday person. These are real people of Fort Dodge that contribute to the character and experience of the community.”

Van Helten’s design was chosen last year from a handful of submissions by the Public Art Coalition, which is an informal group of art enthusiasts.

Harvey said the mural is the first project for the coalition.

“We intend to have additional projects throughout the community,” she said.

Major donors underwriting the project include the Catherine Vincent Deardorf Foundation, America’s Best Communities, Iowa Arts Council, Ann Smeltzer Charitable Trust, Fort Dodge Community Foundation, Allers Associates Architects, Walmart, Fort Dodge Convention & Visitors Bureau, Amigo’s, Availa Bank, C & S Products Co. Inc., Citizens Community Credit Union, CJ Bio America, Fort Dodge Ford Toyota, Gunderson Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Kallin-Johnson Monument and Northwest Bank.

The south end of Loomis Park will remain open while van Helten paints the silos. However, the area adjacent to the silos will be fenced off.