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New Dubuque mural looks to energize conversations around racial justice

Published: Apr. 9, 2021 at 9:37 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - A picture taken in the 1960s in Memphis, Tennessee during the Civil Rights Movement is the inspiration for downtown Dubuque’s newest mural.

Caprice Jones says he remembers clearly seeing the “I am a man” photo when he was younger.

“I was a kid and I was growing up on the south side of Chicago and I saw documentaries and I saw them marching with those signs,” he said. “And it was very impactful for me to have that awareness that people had to go through that to basically have their life matter.”

Iowa artist Dana Harrison will begin painting the mural on Sunday at the former KDTH building. The “I am a man” mural is aimed at sparking conversations around racial justice.

“I think it is a powerful type of discussion that can come from that,” Jones said. “You are looking at humanity, you know, you have got a grown man walking around with a sign that says ‘I am a man’ to wake somebody up.”

The work is the result of a partnership between Voices Productions and the Dubuque Museum of Art. The museum’s executive director, Gary Stoppelman, said the mural will allow the museum to follow through on its mission to excite, engage, and serve diverse communities.

“I cannot think of a better way to do that than to put a two-story work of art on a building that literally turns us inside out and engages thousands more people than we could otherwise,” Stoppelman said.

Stoppelman added the mural will paint a clear picture of the impact art can have on the fight for racial justice.

“The image itself is of a man asking us to consider his humanity and at the simplest notion, I think the artist, and I do not want to speak for the artist, but I think the artist is asking us all to think about our common humanity and to consider our common humanity and to see how we might use art to explore our common humanity,” he explained.

This, however, would not be the first mural in Dubuque aimed at sparking conversations regarding social issues. Jones said that makes the city a revolutionary place in the state.

“Dubuque has a very big responsibility as being the first city in Iowa, and so I believe Dubuque has stepped up to the plate and begun putting forward walking the talk that they talk,” he said. “So Dubuque is being a trailblazer in the state of Iowa and I am happy about that.”

The artist painting the mural will be holding a special event on Sunday, April 11 at 1:00 p.m. at Washington Park to discuss the mural.

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