G-R Murals class, Reinbeck Lions team up to paint the town

Students create agricultural murals for placement in downtown upper story windows

Murals created by a quartet of Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School students depicting the agricultural process in Iowa from planting to harvest hang from the upper story windows of 405 Main Street in downtown Reinbeck. The murals were made possible thanks to a partnership between art teacher Kassi Nelson and the Lions Club. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

REINBECK – Some upper story windows in downtown Reinbeck recently received a colorful upgrade.

Last spring, Dale Wambold with the Reinbeck Lions Club reached out to Gladbrook-Reinbeck art teacher Kassi Nelson with the idea of her students possibly painting some murals for placement in the downtown area.

“Dale came to my classroom to ask us if we would be willing to do the murals. We then brainstormed ideas [about] what we thought would be a great addition [downtown],” Nelson explained in a recent email. “We then thought of the idea of the farming process and how it could be done.”

The first mural was completed at the end of the 2022-23 school year by senior Luke Sienknect – a dreamy landscape featuring waving corn on a blue background – and was hung in one of four empty windows above The 405 Lounge located on Main Street next to Nana Rosa’s Pizza.

“[Luke] was a senior in my independent Painting class and took the challenge on. It took him a few weeks to add the layers of corn and add details.”

Students in Kassi Nelson’s fall Murals class including (l-r) Sophia Schweppe, Anthony Utterback, and Delaney Petersen pictured next to their finished projects prior to being hung in downtown Reinbeck on Oct. 19. PHOTO BY KASSI NELSON

Following the success of Sienknecht’s mural project – and with three more windows above The 405 needing some sprucing up as well – G-R added a Murals class to its high school art options.

And while the Murals class roster this fall was small, Nelson said it’s been another successful venture.

“Three students took on the challenge,” Nelson said. “We did some research and pulled images to help us create the three boards. We took the theme of farming and went from the beginning farming process to the end farming process. The kids decided to take one board per person.”

Artist trio Delaney Petersen, Sophia Schweppe, and Anthony Utterback accepted the mural challenge with gusto with Schweppe painting the planting mural, Utterback the detasseling mural, and Petersen the harvest mural.

From start to finish Nelson said the process took her students about 30 days by devoting an hour of class time each school day to the project.

Murals painted by students in G-R teacher Kassi Nelson’s art classes hang from the upper story of The 405 Lounge in downtown Reinbeck. The murals were hung on Oct. 19 by members of the Lions Club using a boom lift borrowed from Corteva. PHOTO BY SOREN M. PETERSON

With the assistance of a Corteva boom lift, the three murals were hung by members of the Lions Club alongside Sienknect’s original on Thursday, Oct. 19.

“The Reinbeck Lions Club had a huge part in this whole project,” Nelson continued. “They provided all of the paint and supplies. They were able to support us and help us in any way we needed.”

Several of Nelson’s talented students have also painted murals inside the G-R school buildings – including the Rebel’s Mural. If teachers request a mural, Nelson said, her classes are available to answer the call.

With the holiday season soon gearing up, the new downtown murals are certain to be enjoyed by plenty of folks from both near and far, but regardless of who casts their glance up as they walk along Main Street this winter, Nelson said the experience was invaluable for her students.

“It has been so much fun for the kids and myself getting to put their work out into the community! We are so lucky to have such amazing communities in our district!”