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Arts & Life

New Mural Represents Diversity And Hope In Iowa

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Kassidy Arena
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IPR
The new mural is on the north-facing side of the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in downtown Des Moines.
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En español
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Passersby can see the colorful “Future” mural on the north side of the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in downtown Des Moines. It was created in honor of Davis’ legacy and the legacy of J. Barry Griswell, the former president of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, which commissioned the piece.

Artist and advocate Jill Wells designed the mural, which features a diverse group of people facing the word “future” in all capital letters. She said she wanted to remind Iowa about its diversity.

“Diversity, I think is key, because it's our truth and our reality, when we look at the community that we live in, and our global universal kind of community, that is who we are," Wells said at the mural dedication ceremony Friday.

Wells said she hopes people see the public art installment as an example of how to heal from trying times.

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Kassidy Arena
Artist Jill Wells stands in front of the mural she designed and painted at the dedication ceremony at the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families on Friday morning. "I prayed for a public work of art in our community for many, many years. And I was very persistent. And I didn't give up and I didn't quit," Wells said.

"It's kind of like a call to still remember to kind of come back together, and that it doesn't have to be a physical thing. But, there's an importance to that," Wells said.

She had the assistance of Marissa Hernandez, a fellow artist of color and Drake University alumna. Both of the women had applied for the opportunity to design the art piece. When Wells received the honor, she said she immediately asked Hernandez to "come on board."

"I hope for any other woman of color, or women, individuals who identify like that, they don't give up on their own dreams," Wells said. "It's kind of unique, the experience for her and I. It's not the statistical norm."

They began painting the first week of April. Hernandez did much of the background and foliage on the mural.

She said growing up in Des Moines and then Altoona, she wasn't exposed to much diversity or successful people who looked like her. She wanted the people depicted in the mural to be representative of Iowa's populations and "let them know that they're loved here."

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Kassidy Arena
Marissa Hernandez stands in front of the mural she helped paint with artist Jill Wells. Hernandez graduated from Drake University in 2020 with a degree in painting. "I want [people] to really consider who lives in this community and to not just kind of like steamroll over the people that live here," Hernandez said.

“Growing up, you don't really see a lot of artists in general. And then the artists that you do see succeed are mostly white and are mostly male," Hernandez explained. "And it's really important to me to be that person I needed when I was younger and show kids that they don't have to change who they are to...I don't know, succeed or exist."

As for Wells, she teared up when talking about one of the lessons she learned throughout the process. She said many people experiencing homelessness approached her while she painted and shared their own stories. Since the project is done, she acknowledged she won't see them as much as she used to, and she'll miss talking with them.

"It was just like such a beautiful experience. And they would share with us what they're doing for the day. And there's something there for me that I learned. I don't know what it means, but I want to pursue it in some way, shape, or form, not only with my art, but my advocacy work," Wells said.

Several speakers shared their stories about the impact Davis and Griswell had on their lives at the dedication ceremony. They included Dr. Ahmed Agyeman, the Evelyn K. Davis Center's director, Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), Dr. Richard Deming, board chair of the Community Foundation, Kristi Knous, the Community Foundation president, Bobbretta Brewton, from the Davis Center's advisory board and Mary Chapman, the vice president, Emeritus of DMACC.

Going forward, Hernandez said she wants to continue offering free, public art to the masses.

En español

Los transeúntes pueden ver el colorido mural “Futuro” en el lado norte del Centro Evelyn K. Davis para Familias Trabajadoras en el centro de Des Moines. Se creó en honor al legado de Davis y al de J. Barry Griswell, antiguo presidente de la Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, que encargó la obra.

La artista y defensora de los derechos humanos Jill Wells diseñó el mural, en el que aparece un grupo diverso de personas frente a la palabra “futuro” en letras mayúsculas. Dijo que deseaba recordar a Iowa su diversidad.

“Creo que la diversidad es la clave, porque es nuestra verdad y nuestra realidad, cuando miramos a la comunidad en la que vivimos, y nuestro tipo de comunidad universal global, que es lo que somos”, dijo Wells en la ceremonia de dedicación del mural el viernes.

Wells dijo que espera que la gente vea la muestra de arte público como un ejemplo de cómo curarse de los tiempos difíciles.

“Es una especie de llamada para recordar que hay que volver a estar juntos, y que no tiene por qué ser algo físico. Pero, hay una importancia en eso”, dijo Wells.

Contó con la ayuda de Marissa Hernández, otra artista de color y ex alumna de la Universidad de Drake. Ambas habían solicitado la oportunidad de diseñar la obra de arte. Cuando Wells recibió el honor, dijo que inmediatamente le pidió a Hernández que “se integrara”.

“Espero que para cualquier otra mujer de color, o mujeres, individuos que se identifiquen así, no renuncien a sus propios sueños”, dijo Wells. “Es algo único, la experiencia de ella y mía. No es la norma estadística”.

Empezaron a pintar la primera semana de abril. Hernández hizo gran parte del fondo y el follaje del mural.

Dijo que al crecer en Des Moines y luego en Altoona, no estuvo expuesta a mucha diversidad ni a personas exitosas que se parecieran a ella. Quería que las personas representadas en el mural fueran representativas de la población de Iowa y “que supieran que aquí se les quiere”.

“Al crecer, no ves muchos artistas en general. Y los artistas que sí ves triunfar son en su mayoría blancos y son en su mayoría hombres”, explicó Hernández. “Y es realmente importante para mí ser esa persona que necesitaba cuando era más joven y mostrar a los niños que no tienen que cambiar lo que son para… no sé, tener éxito o existir”.

En cuanto a Wells, se le saltaron las lágrimas al hablar de una de las lecciones que aprendió a lo largo del proceso. Dijo que muchas personas sin hogar se acercaron a ella mientras pintaba y compartieron sus propias historias. Desde que el proyecto está terminado, reconoce que no los verá tanto como antes, y echará de menos hablar con ellos.

“Era una experiencia tan bonita. Y ellos compartían con nosotros lo que hacían durante el día. Y ahí hay algo que aprendí. No sé lo que significa, pero quiero dedicarme a ello de alguna manera, no sólo con mi arte, sino con mi trabajo como defensora”, dijo Wells.

Varios oradores compartieron sus historias sobre el impacto que Davis y Griswell tuvieron en sus vidas en la ceremonia de dedicación. Entre ellos se encontraban el Dr. Ahmed Agyeman, director del Centro Evelyn K. Davis, Rob Denson, presidente del Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), el Dr. Richard Deming, presidente del consejo de la Fundación Comunitaria, Kristi Knous, presidenta de la Fundación Comunitaria, Bobbretta Brewton, del consejo asesor del Centro Davis y Mary Chapman, vicepresidenta emérita del DMACC.

En el futuro, Hernández dijo que quiere seguir ofreciendo arte público y gratuito a las masas.

La traducción de Hola Iowa.