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An artist meets a wrestling program through community mural

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

An artist meets a wrestling program through community mural

Cresco dedicates scene by CC painter

By 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the lawn outside of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame (IWHOF) was packed with Cresco residents and students, milling excitedly under a 40 foot by 17 foot mural painted by Charles City artist Robin Macomber –– the tallest mural she’s ever painted.

“It’s been a long process,” Macomber said, as Cresco residents lined up patiently to meet in person one of her subjects, Dan Gable, who appears twice as an Olympic athlete and University of Iowa wrestling coach in one of the panels.

Fast-drying paint, an east-facing wall and temperatures that fluctuated between 58 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit from August to October kept Macomber on her toes during production of her sixth outdoor mural, which took approximately 138 hours over a seven-week period.

“It’s one of the pieces that probably had one of the highest expectations, because of the community out here,” Macomber said.

Tight-knit and passionate, Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. dedication service for the mural saw most residents wearing the blue-andsilver of the high school, sporting Cresco Wrestling and IWHOF on their jackets and hats. The three painted panels towering above them feature Cresco High School’s impressive wrestling statistics: three Olympic wrestlers, nine NCAA champions, seven state team titles and 65 state champions underneath a likeness of the Exchange Cresco, a ceramics studio, community gathering space and wall host of Macomber’s mural. The second panel features notable Cresco residents and wrestlers Dr. Harold Nichols, Gary Kurdelmeier and Dr. Norman Borlaug; Gable, the only living person portrayed, ties together the last panel.

“There was a lot of creativity in this mural, but the hard part was, this ––” Macomber gestured towards Gable’s meet-and-greet line –– “That all of this was going to be successful.” Macomber spent about six months working with the IWHOF Board of Directors to ensure community success, narrowing down the wrestling program’s highlights and making small sketches of initial designs that she then expanded. The three panels, tied together by a stars-andstripes banner, will help the brick wall wick moisture away when it gets wet, allowing the design to stay vibrant. Macomber collaborated with Sherman-Williams Paint to find a product that would stand out on the sandblasted brick, and then climbed up and down her ladder during production, making sure the portrait faces looked good at all angles and retouching details that stuck out thanks to a wayward brick.

“You don’t plan (for dealing with angles). You just start painting and you go down and you stand across the street,” she said. “I’d have lunch at Subway staring at it, or I’d go park in the parking lot at the hardware store and look at it … I’d look at the pictures in the evening time and then decide, ‘Oh this is where I need to go back to and make my corrections.’” A self-taught artist, Macomber has been painting professionally since 1996 and travels the country for residential and business commissions, which can include anything from decorative plaster work, detail painting and the murals. Macomber’s work has previously been on display in Charles City at the McDonald’s drive-thru: franchise characters smiling from the historic swinging pedestrian bridge, with community features like the bell tower, Main Street clock and Comets displayed.

It’s the variety in her work that draws Macomber most, she said, and Cresco’s passion for their wrestling community was a standout.

“I knew nothing about wrestling before I started this at all. Zero,” Macomber said, laughing. Still, “That’s what’s so awesome about small-town Iowa. We can take what may not be a big thing in a very big city and appreciate it, even just the small, simple things.”

“I really love what I do; why not?” she said. “I believe in fate, and it was just meant to be.”

By Kate Hayden [email protected]

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