The Iowa City Catholic Worker House’s garage, which looks out over Lower Muscatine Rd across from Kirkwood Community College, has added a few new murals from local artists in the hope of welcoming folks into the house.
“We want everyone to know that immigrants and refugees are welcome here,” Emily Sinnwell, a nurse practitioner and co-founder of the Catholic Worker House, said in a press release. “We are a safe house and sanctuary where the poor come first.”
David Goodner, who helped establish the shelter, said they wanted a public mural that represented both the faith-based and service-based aspects of their mission.
Based out of the Catholic Worker movement that began in New York City during the Great Depression, the Iowa City Catholic Worker House offers short-term, transitional shelter to single moms, children, individuals with disabilities, veterans, former prisoners, immigrants and refugees. Since it first opened its doors in August, the house has sheltered 21 people.
“We’re a small scale shelter, but we get calls every day and we can’t meet the housing need out there,” Goodner said. “I think the biggest thing we’re learning from this experience is no matter how much we talk about the housing crisis here, it’s worse than we think it is. And a lot of the people we’ve had come through have been women and children.”
Mike Stenerson, of Iowa City, painted two sides of the garage. One side shows a cross on a colorful landscape influenced by traditional stained glass as well as the abstract shapes of graffiti writing. The front of the garage has images of two hands praying and a figure that pulls from the traditional Lady of Guadalupe iconography.
“This being a service house where people can come when they are in need, both of these images seemed appropriate,” Stenerson said. “I just hope it’s a welcoming representation of what they are trying to do here at the house.”
Other sides of the garage hold artwork by Tony Carter, an Iowa transplant living in New York City, depicting Jesus walking on water and saving Peter from drowning, and a street scene painted by Kenny Morgan, of Iowa City.
“I hope the community enjoys looking at it and maybe it inspires some other people to do some art as well,” said Stenerson, who has painted several other murals around Iowa City, including behind Gabe’s and inside El Patrón.