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Artists encouraged to submit ideas for mural inspired by history of New Bohemia district

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West wall of the Ideal Social Hall, 213 16th Ave SE, where the mural will be painted this summer. Feb. 24, 2021. — Jessica Abdoney/Little Village

The Czech Village/New Bohemia District is seeking ideas for a mural project that would encapsulate the legacy and culture of the New Bohemia neighborhood. Artists have until the end of the month to submit their proposals.

The mural will be painted on the Ideal Social Hall’s west wall that faces the Bridge of Lions. The artwork will be a prominent welcome to all visitors, according to the request for proposals.

The history of the Ideal Social Hall, 213 16th Ave SE, dates back to 1914 when Frank Smid, the owner of a local hardware store, opened a silent movie theater called the Ideal Theatre. It was one of 14 silent movie theaters in Cedar Rapids, historian Mark Stoffer Hunter told KCRG in 2017. The building was restored into a venue space in 2017.

The District encourages artists to draw inspiration from the rich history of the neighborhood and the individuals who lived and worked there.

The T.M Sinclair meatpacking plant brought Bohemian immigrants to the area in the late 1800s, creating a large Czech settlement in the city. In the early 1900s, the City of Cedar Rapids designated the area to the north of what is now New Bohemia as a manufacturing district. Cedar Rapids was a “melting pot” of Czech, Russian, Lebanese and Italian immigrants.

This history is carried on through the local restaurants, shops and entertainment in the Czech Village and New Bohemia neighborhoods. The two areas are recognized by the state as an Iowa Cultural District, and New Bo is one of Cedar Rapids’ seven National Historic Districts.

“This is the legacy of New Bohemia. And, as this neighborhood — now known for its creative arts, culture, and entertainment scene — continues to flourish, it is only right that we remember the working class who built this neighborhood, this town and, really, this nation,” the District said in its request for proposals.

The District is also encouraging artists to look at the work of 1930s populist and American Regionalists painters, especially the work of muralists supported by the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration.

Entries will be picked by the District’s public art committee and judged based on the artist’s ability to capture the district’s historical presence. The District welcomes artists of all ages, genders, backgrounds and capabilities to submit a proposal, with special consideration given to local and regional artists.

An existing mural facing C Street in Czech Village in winter 2019. — Emma McClatchey/Little Village

Artists who submit ideas do not have to be able or interested in painting the mural. Information about choosing a muralist will be sent out in April. The painting of the mural is scheduled to start in June.

It is possible that more than one proposal will be chosen. Artists whose artwork gets selected will be given a cash prize of $1,000, according to the proposal.

Information on what artists should include in their entry can be found online.

Artists should email their proposals or forward any questions to Monica Vernon at monica@crmainstreet.org. Entries need to be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday, March 29.

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