By Cindy Hadish/For the Corridor Business Journal
Artist Thomas Agran barely has a chance to dip his brush to resume painting before the comments begin.
“Nice work,” a man driving past in a van shouts, giving a “thumbs-up.” A woman traveling by in a car also gives her approval.
“I think people get really excited about public art projects,” said Mr. Agran, as he worked last week on a 130-foot long mural in front of the New Pioneer Food Co-op, 3338 Center Point Rd. NE, in Cedar Rapids.
Representatives of New Pioneer agree. In addition to supporting the work of a local artist, the murals at the new store in Cedar Rapids and those at the Iowa City store, attract positive attention, beautify the buildings and help provide an illustration of what is inside, said New Pioneer Marketing Manager, Jenifer Angerer.
An idyllic farm Iowa scene painted on the Yotopia Frozen Yogurt shop; a gardening mural added near the site of the Iowa City Farmers Market and another of Mr. Agran’s murals at the New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City are among the murals that now add color to Iowa City.
Vegetables that can be locally grown, such as carrots and peppers, along with eggs, cheese and other locally sourced foods, are depicted in the new Cedar Rapids mural, said Mr. Agran, an Iowa City artist who received his master’s of fine arts degree in painting from Indiana University and bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College.
Elsewhere in Cedar Rapids, an attention-grabbing mural was painted last year on the Artisan’s Sanctuary building, 45 16th Ave. SW, in Czech Village.
Artist Sirus Fountain painted the mural during a 10-day residency at the Artisan’s Sanctuary, a non-profit that serves as affordable studio space for artists and a gathering place for the community.
Mr. Fountain also painted a mural on a building on the other side of the Cedar River in New Bohemia during his residency, said Artisan’s Sanctuary director Jim Jacobmeyer.
The mural on the side of the Artisan’s Sanctuary, 45 16th Ave. SW, commissioned by building owner John Carl Berge, depicts St. Wenceslaus, St. Ludmila and St. John, patron saints of the Czech and Slovak people.
“Quite a few people stop and ask about it and take photographs,” Mr. Jacobmeyer said, making the mural a fitting means to point to what goes on inside the building, in addition to piquing the interest of Czech Village visitors. “It’s been a good draw.”
He noted that Mr. Fountain has gone on to paint in New York, London, Chicago and other places.
“We were kind of on the ground floor of some of his mural work,” Mr. Jacobmeyer said.
Known as an “urban expressionist,” Mr. Fountain also painted a series of portraits of famous Czechs, such as Antonin Dvorak, at the nearby Sykora Bakery, which serves as a free art exhibit, open at all hours for visitors to Czech Village.