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Charles City ‘postcard’ mural planned for side of 401 N. Main St. building facing Central Park

Charles City ‘postcard’ mural planned for side of 401 N. Main St. building facing Central Park
The south side of 401 N. Main St., where the Charles City Area Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Charles City and the Charles City Area Development Corp. offices are, is proposed to have one of this year’s Town of Colors murals painted on it.
By Bob Steenson,

An agenda item for the Charles City Area Development Corp. monthly meeting this week turned into a mini referendum of sorts on the popularity of the Town of Colors downtown mural program.

Dean Andrews explained at the Wednesday morning meeting that the Town of Colors Committee wanted to have a mural painted on the south side of the 401 N. Main St. building where the CCADC, the Charles City Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Charles City offices are all located.

Andrews is the Charles City mayor and a member of the CCADC board, but also a member and one of the founders of the Town of Colors mural program.

The side of the building along Blunt Street faces Central Park, and Andrews said it would be a good location for a kind of “postcard” mural depicting various historical and other significant items associated with the city, each one painted as part of the 11 letters in CHARLES CITY.

“We’ve gotten a lot of comments from people in general about our murals in town. I’d say over 90% of people think they’re really nice. There’s that 10% who think they look like graffiti,” Andrews said.

Tim Fox, the executive director of the CCADC, said he was torn between maintaining the clean architectural lines of what he called “the very stately building,” and having another attraction to draw people downtown, saying the decision was up to the board.

A couple of the members of the CCADC board pushed back on the mural idea, while others voiced their support.

Board member Paul Rottinghaus said sometimes he wonders if the money spent on the project couldn’t be better used for other purposes in the community, but Andrews said the money was raised by the Town of Colors Committee for the purpose of having murals painted, and if it wasn’t done on the 401 N. Main St. building it would be painted somewhere else.

He said the Town of Colors Committee usually asks the owner of a building where a mural will be painted to contribute 10% of the project cost, but because this was a publicly owned building the committee would pick up the entire cost. The committee is funded through grants and donations.

Andrews said, “Being on the mural committee, as I said before, I’m under the impression that 90% of people like these murals. Is that wrong? Do people not like these murals?”

Board member Bill Kyle said he liked some of the murals and didn’t like others.

Board member Randy Heitz said one of the things he heard “on the street” was the question of why local artists aren’t used, but Andrews said that two of the four murals painted last year were by local artists – Janiece Bergland and Robin Macomber. There have been a total of six murals painted on outdoor buildings and walls in the last two summers.

Other CCADC board members expressed varying levels of support for the mural program.

Emily Garden said she was “fully in favor,” adding, “I think it’s awesome.”

After some more discussion on the specifics of the mural program, Kyle asked, “If it’s not our building, why’s it our decision?”

The city of Charles City is the owner of the building and leases space to the three groups, but Andrews said the Town of Colors Committee members thought they should also get the occupants’ approval.

Andrews said Mark Wicks, the community development director who leads both the Chamber and Main Street Charles City, supported the idea.

A proposal to paint a mural in honor of emergency medical responders and law enforcement on the Gilbert Street side of the new Floyd County Law Enforcement Center was withdrawn earlier this year by the committee after opposition developed to the idea, including from building occupants who were against painting a mural on what is a new building. At that time Andrews said it wasn’t the committee’s intent to force a mural on anyone who didn’t want one.

Eventually the CCADC board informally agreed to take no action regarding the mural approval request.

Contacted Thursday, Andrews said ultimately it’s probably up to the City Council to decide if the mural was OK on the city-owned building, but he didn’t think it required formal action. He said he was confident council member Phoebe Pittman supports the idea because she is also a member of the Town of Colors Committee, but he would contact the other council members individually and if none of them expressed opposition the committee would go ahead with the mural idea.

The committee plans three murals this summer – the 401 N. Main St. mural, one on the side of the Main Street building owned by Tonette Noah where Kloberdanz Insurance is located, and on the Furniture Barn building. Building owners have the final say in what the murals look like that are painted on their buildings.


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