After consulting with Muscatine city departments to help ensure that each artist was capable of carrying out a large-scale project, the Muscatine Public Art Advisory Commission has recommended three artists to create public art in the roundabout at Mulberry and Second Street — Daniel Miller of Iowa City; Nathan Pierce of Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Greg Mueller of Lutsen Mountain, Minn. 

Their concepts and additional information will be available online and at select in-person locations from Wednesday (Dec. 1) through Jan. 10, 2022. Citizens of Muscatine will have an opportunity to review and vote on the three public art concepts being considered for the circle in the two-year-old roundabout.

If everything goes as planned, the winning public art installation (to cost between $50,000 and $60,000) will be in place by summer 2022, said Melanie Alexander, city staff liaison to the Public Art Advisory Commission and director of the Muscatine Art Center.

“We’re going to look at what the public wants; this is our first process for us,” she said Tuesday. “When we selected the artists to submit concepts, we reviewed to see if they had the capacity, the past experience to indicate they could successfully implement whatever project they developed. The group is comfortable with all three.”

“We were surprised by how many people applied from all over, including six from Iowa,” Alexander said. .

In 2020, the commission announced a Request for Qualifications for the project, and 17 artists from Iowa and throughout the U.S. responded to the RFQ.

“The Advisory Commission carefully reviewed the materials submitted by the artists,” Alexander said in a Monday release. “We were looking for artists with a record of successful public art commissions and with the ability to create something unique for Muscatine.”

The applicants provided information about themselves, examples of their completed projects, and a statement explaining their interest in the project. “This project is one of the first managed through the Public Art Advisory Commission,” Alexander said. “It was critical that the selected artists have the capabilities to carry out a project of this scale and complexity.”

All three artists have done multiple public art projects. Mueller received his MFA in Sculpture from Montana State University School of Art. He’s held several academic appointments and has exhibited throughout the Midwest. Daniel Miller is the Program Head of Sculpture and Intermedia at The School of Art and Art History at University of Iowa.

Daniel Miller’s concept incorporates Mark Twain and a riverboat.

He earned his MFA in Time Arts from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. His works have also been shown in solo exhibitions in Illinois and Rhode Island and in group exhibitions throughout the United States and in South Korea and China. Pierce received his BFA in Sculpture from Southeast Missouri State University. His work is held in collections or installed in public places in Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Missouri, South Dakota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Alabama, Kansas, and Canada.

Artists inspired by relationship to the river

The three chosen artists participated in an online meeting in May 2021 and worked on their proposals through summer 2021. A stipend of $750 was paid to each artist, and a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine provided funds for the stipends.

Each artist provided a detailed proposal — including the inspiration for their concept, concept drawings, a detailed budget, dimensions and materials for the piece, and a list of other concerns such as lighting and mounting.

The three artists all found inspiration in Muscatine’s relationship to the Mississippi River. Greg Mueller and Daniel Miller both referenced Mark Twain, with Miller incorporating Twain’s bust into his piece while Mueller drew on Twain’s quote about the sunsets in Muscatine.

Miller’s concept also integrates a steamboat and a series of buttons along with the flow of the Mississippi River (Muscatine was known as the “Pearl Button Capital of the World”). Mueller researched the name “Muscatine” and found that it means “island of fire” in Native American language. For Nathan Pierce, his life on the Mississippi River in Missouri made the creation of his concept, “Zenith,” especially meaningful, the release said.

The first opportunity to vote on the concepts took place during the IDEAdash events on Nov. 16th.

The community is invited to provide feedback through Jan. 10, 2022. The online survey can be accessed at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HSCR6SF.

In-person voting will take place at the Musser Public Library and HNI Community Center, the Muscatine Art Center, and Sunrise Galleries from Dec. 1 through Jan. 10th. The online survey provides details about each artist and the proposed concept. Posters at the in person sites also present this information.  

“Our goal is to install a permanent work that reflects the Muscatine community and/or its history, is unique to Muscatine, can be easily maintained, is designed to be durable, and will not impede the safety of motorists or pedestrians,” according to the survey.

The city council in January will formally award the public art project, Alexander said, noting the roundabout is considered the gateway to downtown Muscatine.