October 20, 2014

Cedar Rapids mural features flood victims moving toward recovery

A new painting unveiled in Cedar Rapids features dozens of optimistic community members in a scene about the city which is still recovering from the devastating flood of 2008. Indiana artist Tom Torluekme created the mural in eight days and started by sketching as many people from the area as possible.

Torluekme says, “I learned so much through this project because every half hour or 20 minutes, a new person comes to me and my whole goal is to learn about the people, learn about my relationship or reaction to different people’s experiences and thing they tell me and the whole idea is based on the exhibition title, ‘You Know, We’re in this Together’.”

He sketched 58 people over three days and painted 46 of them into the mural, which is 24-feet wide. The mural features most of the people positioned on a grassy hill with small puddles of water at the bottom. Torluemke says everybody he drew referenced the community’s ongoing recovery from the flood.

After the mural was unveiled last Friday, Craig Taylor approached the mural and looked at own his face. “I’m am just astonished at this whole mural,” Taylor says. “I mean, he captured every part of this community. I’m looking at every part of me and it just looks like we’re ready to jump off the page.”

Torluekme is in Cedar Rapids as part of a residency sponsored by Legion Arts, an organization with the mission of fostering new art. Now that the mural is complete, Torluemke say he’s not sure where its permanent home will be. “Usually, the artist comes and makes work and the creative process that the artist goes through is the contribution to the community and then whatever works that they create, often they just go home with, however, I wouldn’t want to do that,” he says.

“I would want this piece to stay here in the community because that’s what it was created for, so we’ll see who we can find that would like it.” The mural will be on display at the gallery in the Czek-Slovak Protective Society building with dozens of his other works until the end of August.