Iowa City painted by numbers mural raises climate change awareness

A new climate action mural designed by local artist Erica Danner showcases the role composting can play in tackling climate change.

Jeff sigmund

The Climate Fest community mural, painted by volunteers, is on view Friday, October 8, 2021. The mural is located on South Gilbert Court.


A new Iowa City mural painted by volunteers was designed to show the appreciation of the Iowa City compost workers while strengthening the community.

The process of creating the mural, designed by local artist Erica Danner, began on September 23 as part of Iowa City’s Climate Fest activities. The festival, which takes place every September, was launched to raise awareness about the effects of climate change and what the Iowa City Climate Action and Awareness Committee is doing to protect the environment.

Iowa City Public Art Program Coordinator Marcia Bollinger said the mural was painted on the side of the Iowa City composting and recycling truck storage facility on South Gilbert Court for brighten up the drab building.

Vivid colors like blue, pink and orange swirl around different patterns of snails and worms as vibrant plants come to life with purple soils.

“It’s a very vividly colored mural and it has some really fun graphics with creepy bugs and robots,” Bollinger said.

Climate action engagement specialist Sarah Gardner said one of the goals of the mural was to bring the community together in the fight against climate change.

One of the ways the mural accomplishes community building, Gardner said, is by designing the mural as a paint-by-number project that was done by volunteers. The painting was divided into several sections titled with a number that corresponded to a specific paint color.

“By doing the mural by number, it allowed a lot of community members to get involved, so it was very much in the spirit of community action,” Gardner said.

About 120 volunteers have signed up to paint the mural in advance online, Gardner said.

The number of registered volunteers was considered a victory, she said, but the success of the event is due to the number of people who passed by and took a brush.

“We had people who came by and were interested and asked if they could join us, and of course we said yes,” she said.

Bollinger said it was fun to see the range of ages and families involved in the event.

“There were families from all age groups,” Bollinger said. “The younger ones did the lower parts which weren’t very detailed and the adults were higher up on the scaffolding doing the smaller things. It was just fun to be a part of it.

One of the many volunteer painters was Stefania Acosta Ramírez, 34, a resident of Iowa City, who painted the mural with her family. She said she volunteered because she believed it was a good opportunity to teach her children the importance of climate change.

Acosta Ramírez’s favorite part about the event was that community members got to paint the mural. Even if you’re not good at painting, you still got to contribute and have fun, she said.

“Taking the brush or painting, even if it’s a small action, gives you the opportunity to be part of a community,” said Acosta Ramírez. “It’s nice.”

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