Council members voice public murals interest

Monday, July 2, 2018

During Monday night’s Spencer City Council, after City Manager Amanda Mack informed the council of the upcoming Progress and Development meeting, council members requested the addition of a new agenda item. In particular, Ward 4 City Councilwoman Leann Jacobsen and Ward 3 City Councilman Steve Bomgaars requested the addition of an agenda item surrounding the allowance of public murals within the city of Spencer, exploring the possibility for the creation of artistic murals to adorn buildings in the city.

“About a month ago over Memorial Day, my wife and I were in Rock Rapids,” Bomgaars said. “We were going through the town and we noticed the wonderful murals that they have on their buildings in Rock Rapids. I’ve heard people talk about it, (saying) ‘Why can’t we do that in Spencer?’

“I think in Rock Rapids, a small town, maybe 2,000 people, I think they have 23 murals,” he continued. “They’re just wonderful. I think that it would possibly enhance the downtown, provide some wonderful public art, and there’s a lot of historical things that we can take pride in as a community that could be representative of those murals. I would like to have that on the agenda to see if we can possibly do that.”

“I think there is such tremendous power in public art,” Jacobsen said. “Especially in murals. Not only to help beautify our city, but help enhance community. ... Murals are such a way of beautifying and creating things that welcome people and make things interesting for all of us. We have some amazing artists regionally in our area. ... I’m so excited (Bomgaars) brought it up and heartily support adding it to the agenda.”

Councilman at Large George Moriarty questioned City Attorney Don Hemphill over the current ordinance restricting murals within the city.

“We’ve talked about art before, and I like them myself personally, but there’s quite a few limitations on what can be painted on our buildings, right?” Moriarty said.

“Well there is at present,” Hemphill said. “A private mural proposal came to the planning and zoning commission (in the past) and there was quite a discussion and review. The planning and zoning commission did not recommend any amendments to the ordinance to permit murals. That’s the other side of the mural problem, there can be murals you don’t like at all, so how you get this balance you’re looking for?”

Despite possible difficulties in discerning the wholesomeness of murals, Bomgaars and Jacobsen were still supportive of exploring murals in Spencer.

“I think that’s a legitimate concern, but I think we can talk about this in the committee meeting,” Bomgaars said. “If other communities have done it, I don’t see why we can’t.”

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