Paint the Town

Iowa City, IA
Iowa City, IA

The city allowed [the University of Iowa professor Donna] Friedman and her students to move forward with some murals downtown and one of the walls chosen was the West-facing wall of the still-standing Paul-Helen building. . . . The design chosen was of the Sac war chief, Black Hawk. …

In the mural Black Hawk stood, larger than life, in a formal, three quarters stance, looking out over downtown Iowa City, wearing his regalia and holding his symbols of authority. In the style of M. C. Escher, the atmospheric background composed of his outlined shape morphed into hawks soaring up to the top of the building as though riding thermals into the sky. It was a dignified and proud portrait.

Free Environment, a citizens’ group formed at this time to advocate for public space, said of the Black Hawk mural that it “reminds us that the guardians of this land who came before us treated it with more respect then we do.” . . .

Sometime in the ’80s the mural was removed and the building remodeled. Nothing remains of the Black Hawk mural.

—DEANNE WORTMAN, Little Village, 2010