The mural was initiated by Shelby Fry, a local artist who wanted to use her talents to bring the community together and promote a positive message of acceptance in response to national events and local calls for changes surrounding racial equity and justice for communities of color.
“As the protests continue, the Black Lives Matter movement is more important than ever. I wanted to show that Dubuque stands for solidarity and strength amongst all of its citizens through the multi-colored fists. It was also important to include support for people with disabilities, brain health issues, the LGBTQ community and representation for women and trans rights,” said Fry. “With that in mind, getting local organizations of different color, sexual orientation, and any other group that may feel excluded, involved is key. We need to come together in times of uncertainty and show that each life is important and if we work together, we can make something beautiful.”
In addition to designing the artwork, Fry is serving as the artistic director for the mural's completion. Voices Productions, a local non-profit behind Dubuque’s ongoing mural inventory, commissioned the mural. Sam Mulgrew, the organization’s chair, is serving as the (volunteer) lead project producer with Gene Tully, a long-time member of Voices Productions, serving as the (volunteer) project manager. Voices Productions is also soliciting donations to support costs associated with purchasing supplies, renting equipment, and supporting the overall creation of the mural. The project’s title sponsor, Trappist Caskets, will match contributions dollar for dollar up to $5,000. Those interested in donating to this project should contact Sam Mulgrew at firstname.lastname@example.org or 563- 590-2533.
In considering a location for the mural placement, Voices Productions and Fry consulted with the City’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and representatives of City-funded arts and culture institutions to identify possible and prominent locations. Fry contacted HR Cook at Five Flags to explore the possibility of its expansive exterior walls serving as the canvas. Because Five Flags is owned by the City of Dubuque, Fry and Voices Productions worked with Arts & Cultural Affairs Coordinator Jenni Petersen-Brant, Leisure Services Manager Marie Ware, Human Rights Director Kelly Larson, City Attorney Crenna Brumwell, and City Manager Mike Van Milligen to make necessary arrangements and secure permission for the mural’s placement.
“This is an important and significant artistic expression, giving birth to a unified statement by the city of Dubuque and it provides the ‘canvas’ for a timely and timeless message,” said Dubuque Mayor Roy D. Buol. “This image represents all people in Dubuque and clarifies our goal to be an inclusive and equitable community. I am sincerely grateful to all involved in making this happen.”
To assist in finalizing the design, project organizers engaged representatives from the Switching Places Foundation, the Dubuque branch of the NAACP, the Fountain of Youth, the Multicultural Family Center, and the Dubuque DREAM Center.
Voices Productions plans to begin painting the mural this weekend with participation from the community. Project organizers are inviting artists, as well as any interested community member, especially those from local Black and Brown communities, to participate in painting the mural in staggered shifts, Saturday, June 27 through Saturday, July 4. No experience is needed, and all materials and equipment are provided; participation is however limited to persons 16 years and older due to the use of a lift. Those interested in participating in the community-painting process should contact Ali Levasseur, Chair of the City of Dubuque’s Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission and President of the Dubuque County Fine Arts Society, at email@example.com.
Fry also plans to sell prints and t-shirts featuring the design with proceeds going to local Black Lives Matter efforts.