Our Town: Meet the artist behind the giant “Teeth-rex” mural in Grinnell

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 3:18 PM CDT
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GRINNELL, Iowa (KCRG) - Grinnell is lucky to have several different pieces of art scattered around the community. When you have an artist like Ryan McGuire nearby, you’re bound to see something that’ll make you smile.

“I’m a pretty positive guy, Ryan said. “I like to make it for people not to say ‘Oh, is that fine art, what’s the hidden meaning?’ I actually just make art to make people smile.”

Originally from Ithaca, New York, Ryan moved to Grinnell in 2017 so his wife could take a job at the nearby college. It’s also where he started his family.

“Our second year living Grinnell, we loved it so much, we adopted a daughter from Des Moines,” he said. That probably took a high level of what was one of the greatest things.”

He said the greatest thing about Grinnell is the close-knit community.

“You walk into the coffee shop and you feel like you’re part of a family,” Ryan said. “You can walk down the street and everybody knows everybody.”

But he said Grinnell was missing something: ART! So he got to work on several different projects including an egg and a balloon on a string.

One of the big projects he worked on was a gigantic mural of a tyrannosaurus rex brushing its teeth.

Ryan collaborated with a neighbor who happens to be a business owner. So they sketched some ideas and got permission to paint it on the back of another business, and the owner couldn’t resist. He rented a lift to get the job done and in just two days, a sketch became a masterpiece.

It stands at 35-feet tall and 26 feet wide. While he said the project was a bit intimidating, it was much needed.

“The last mural that was painted in Grinnell was in 2000,” he said. “Me coming from New York to stir that bees’ nest, public art is an exciting thing, we don’t need to be afraid of it.”

He also created a sculpture of an egg, which now hangs over the patio of Hotel Grinnell.

“When I build something, I build it to last,” he said. “I designed and built that egg just like a boat, so it’s using gel coat like a boat. So that thing is gonna last 20 years underwater and on a building.”

He was also commissioned to make a colorful sign for the library.

Maybe his most eccentric piece was a 1986 Ford he converted into a monster truck.

“When you think monster truck, you think huge wheels, you think all this excitement,” he said. “No, I turned it with polka dots and bright yellow. I rounded off the roof and added side effects.”

While Ryan and his family had to move away from Grinnell in 2019, he hopes “teeth-rex” and his other works will generate smiles for years to come.

“It’s one of those things if you make “silly” or “fun” art, it can still be high quality, but it has such a larger range,” he said. “It can make kids happy, it can make adults happy…it can make art lovers and non-art lovers kind of enjoy the world around them.”

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