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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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MURALS. Murals depicting life in Dubuque and along the MISSISSIPPI RIVER may be found in DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL and inside the West 6th Street entrance of the post office.

As early as 1855, Congress had provided for art in some federal buildings. That year Congress commissioned Constantino Brumidi to paint frescos in the committee rooms of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. (1) In the mid 1930s, the United States remained at the center of a global economic depression. In an effort to provide economic relief to citizens, particularly artists, who were having trouble finding work, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration (WPA), under Federal Project One. Several months later, a subdivision of the WPA called the Federal Art Project (FAP) was developed.

For artists to be considered for the Federal Art Project, they had to apply for Home Relief to confirm they were impoverished and then submit samples of their work to demonstrate they were actively creating art. Once approved, an artist's stipend was $24 per week. Only a few months after the Federal Art Project was announced, more than 1100 artists were working for the WPA, many in the Mural Division, which included artists like Stuart Davis, Jackson Pollock and Arshile Gorky. (2) In 1934 during the GREAT DEPRESSION, the U.S. Treasury Department, Section of Painting and Sculpture in Washington, D.C., appointed a committee to conduct competition for the painting of murals in new federal buildings. Funding for art or decoration was provided at one percent of the building's cost if construction came in under budget.

A local committee of Frederick Ezekiel BISSELL, Dr. John K. Hancock, Casimir Ignatius KRAJEWSKI, and Kate Keith VAN DUZEE received submissions from local artists and sent their choices to the committee in Washington for its approval. (3)

Picture by William E. Bunn.

William E. L. Bunn of Muscatine, Iowa, was awarded one of the two contracts. His work, entitled "Early Mississippi Steamboat," had as its central object the third steamboat named "Dubuque." To portray his subject correctly, Bunn consulted with William J. PETERSEN.

Picture by Bertrand Adams.

Bertrand Adams of Webster City painted "Early Settlers of Dubuque." Among the scenes included in the work are the grave of Julien DUBUQUE, SHOT TOWER, LEAD mine, and a family waiting to cross the MISSISSIPPI RIVER.

Both artists were instructed to collaborate on their designs so that the paintings would be uniform in color. One painting was to represent the river aspects of the city while the other was to deal with the land. Each artist received $956 for his mural. Both murals measured 6 ft. 6 in. by 8 ft. 3 in. and were painted with oil on canvas. (4)

More controversial was the depiction of nineteenth century Dubuque in the auditorium of DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. Painted in the late 1930s by Cyril FERRING, the mural was condemned in the 1970s because of its portrayal of women as submissive, AFRICAN AMERICANS as slaves, white males as dominating and Native Americans as social and cultural outcasts. These murals were restored by the extended family of Dr. and Mrs. Darryl Mozena. (5)

In 1991 a new mural was unveiled in the auditorium with images in keeping with the multicultural, non-sexist policy of the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. Created by artist Carl Homstad of Decorah, Iowa, the mural shows one scene of a construction site with workers of both sexes and including an Asian, Hispanic and Native American. The second scene depicts an office with an African American professional male speaking with a white professional woman in a wheelchair. The artist included himself in the mural as the only white male pouring coffee into a mug labeled "Save the Earth." The mural was paid for with donations collected by students from residents and the Dubuque chapter of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE (N.A.A.C.P.)

In 1970 officials of the Telegraph Herald announced that they had commissioned two murals for the newspaper's new lobby. Chosen for the project was Mrs. Richard (Zelma) Clark of Galena, Illinois. A graduate of the Chicago Art Institute, she operated an art gallery and studio in Galena and was a part-time illustrator-designer for the Duane Rice Studio in Chicago. One of the murals had as its theme the Telegraph Herald's heritage beginning with the "Du Bubuque Visitor." The mural included a large photo-reproduction of the front page of this newspaper dated May 11, 1836. Also illustrated was the Peter Smith hand press and type-case used in the era. (6)

The principal theme of the second mural was the SPRAGUE. Also illustrated was a nineteenth century Dubuque skyline with the SHOT TOWER. (7)

Charging Buffalo/107 Locust/Artist-Arcy
Undercurrent/Third St. alley between Main and Locust/Artist-Werc
Persistence/62 E. 7th St./Artist-COLD
Hush of Heaven/Alley of the 300 block of Main/Artist-PuriGur
Young David/345 Main
Owl's Moon/1500 Central/Artist-Werc
Portal/1563 Central/Artist-Hoxxoh
The Fate of Santa Clara/Artist-1460 Central/Artist-Miles Turner
America Needs a Hug/1501 Central/Artist-Werc and Gera
Julien Dubuque/576 Central/Artist-Miles Turner
Redemption/1599 Central/Artist-Gala
Automate/Second and Main/Artist-Gala
La Pachamama Ama Dubuque/1638 Central/Artist-Luis Vale
Justice/345 Main/Artist-Starfighter
Ascending/17th St. and Central/Artist-Clarke University
Cut Flowers/365 Main/Artist-Amanda Valdes
Wild Rose/395 Main/Artist-Didi
Wisdom/2nd Street/Artist-Nate Dee
Bird Dog/Second street alley between Locust and Main/Artist-Werc and Gera
Ada Hayden/233 Main/Artist-Gaia
Pattern Revival/Alley of the 300 block of Main/Artist-Gera
Redemption/1599 Central/Artist-Gala
Rising Sun/First and Main/Artist-Zore and ZorZorZor
Louis Valle works on a mural of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on a building at 12th and Jackson. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Wall of the Boys and Girls Club
Replaced buffalo mural mentioned previously
Alley near 9th and Central
Near Telegraph Herald building
Near Telegraph Herald building
Alley at the south end of the Historic Millwork District

[[File:mural9.JPG|250px|thumb|left|Alley near the courthouse]

Near the Historic Millwork District in an alley

In the fall of 2016 Voices Productions began the Voices Mural Project, a series of murals on the sides of downtown buildings in Dubuque. Three downtown murals were completed which were planned to become the start of a larger project in 2017 which would include fifteen murals by regional and nationally known painters. Some of the murals were planned to be highly visible while others might be located in alleys. The Voices Mural Project, sponsored by Runde Auto Group and Humanities Iowa, would eventually become part of a public art walking tour. The work begun was a winner of the 2017 365INK Impact Award. (8) By the end of 2017 there were fourteen murals installed with most located in the Lower Main district. (9)

In June, 2018 Voices officials proposed installing eight new murals on Central between July and October. Council members approved $8,000 in grant funding. The mural project was a partnership between Voices Productions and the owners of the buildings on which the murals appeared. (10)

In response to the racial equality protests across the United States in the spring of 2020, the “SOLIDARITY” mural was completed on July 2 on the Main Street side of FIVE FLAGS CIVIC CENTER.

In the mural measuring 28 feet high and 105 feet wide, artist Shelby Fry showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement and other segments of the community and efforts to promote unity. Some of the symbols used as letters are meant to include those with disabilities (the wheelchair symbol), brain health issues (the first “i,” which is a semicolon, which are commonly associated with brain health), the LGBTQ community (the rainbow “D”) and transgendered individuals (the symbol serving as the “y”).



1. "Art in Federal Buildings," United States District Court-District of Delaware, Online: http://www.ded.uscourts.gov/murals

2. "The Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration," The Art Story Foundation, Online: http://www.theartstory.org/org-wpa.htm

3. Kruse, Len, "Roosevelt's New Deal Brought an Artistic Touch to Post Office," Telegraph Herald, November 24, 18983, p. 2

4. Ibid.

5. Discussion with Dr. Darryl Mozena 1/2/2017

6. New Murals of Old Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, August 14, 1970, p. 8

7. Ibid.

8. "Downtown Murals," 365ink Magazine, February 23-March 8, 2017 Issue #285, p. 16

9. Hogstrom, Erik, "'People's Art' Blossoms," Telegraph Herald, September 29, 2018, p. 1A

10. Kruse, John. "Murals Spark Discussion Among Council Members," Telegraph Herald, June 20, 2018, p. 1

Captions from: Gloss, Megan, "Walking Among Art," Telegraph Herald, October 6, 2019, p. 1D This article displays many other murals and their locations.