Books & Blooms - Glenwood Graduate's Mural Brings Color, Nature To Library
The wall is a swirling sea of color.
Flowering foxglove, colorful clusters of yarrow, pops of pink and orange milkweed, purple hued coneflowers and wild petunia. Insects wisp about here and there.
The freshly painted mural coating the walls of the youth section at the Council Bluffs Public Library practically glows. It’s both educational and aesthetically pleasing by design. The depictions of the native vegetation a steady mix of minute detail and impressionism.
All of it conceived in the mind and at the brush stroke of Angela (Garrett) Griner, a freelance graphic artist and 2000 Glenwood Community High School graduate, who first began work on the mural over two years ago.
The library mural was not Griner’s first large scale work; but it was perhaps her biggest to date. Her previously largest piece was for a Des Moines retailer.
“The graphics in that space were very large and over scale,” said Griner, who earned a degree in art and design from Iowa State University in 2005. “This one was smaller in scale. It’s definitely my most detailed.”
How Griner came to the library project was almost by coincidence.
Griner and husband, Seth, a computer programmer, moved to Council Bluffs in 2013. Their two children, ages 7 and 11, were frequent visitors to the library and Griner got to know the librarians. One of those librarians just so happened to be a former counselor who crossed paths with Griner at Iowa State.
“She asked if I had ever done a mural and would I be interested?” Griner recalled.
She had and she was.
The project was in the research and design phase for about two years. Griner just completed it in December. In all, she guesses over 120 hours of work went into the project.
“A lot of the murals I do I take a piece of chalk and I go into the space and I kind of map it out and draw with the chalk,” Griner said. “Then I paint over it. It’s very organic and flowing. This one wasn’t like that.”
The library had already established a theme for the youth area: prairie. The mural would have to include native plants, wild flowers and the pollinators of southwest Iowa.
“They wanted it educational, obviously, so that when kids walks in they’d learn about the native plants,” she said.
That made Griner’s job a tad more difficult. The library had a long list of native plants, flowers and pollinators to be included. Accuracy and detail in their depiction was crucial.
“If anyone came in they wanted them to be able to say, ‘Oh, that’s a pasque flower,’” Griner said. “It caused it’s own sense of challenges. This mural looked a lot different. It had an educational bent to it whereas a lot of my other murals are designed to be visually appealing.”
She included a few fun insects from the area too.
“So many kids came in and they’d see it and they’d say ‘Wow!’ They were so excited for all the color and the shapes. A lot of the kids would ask me, how long I’d been painting and they’d tell me they like painting, too. You could see in their minds they were getting inspired to do their own art work.”
Griner recently attended a meeting at the library on native plants. The community horticulturists in attendance recognized every plant, she said, much to her relief.“It was good to see it was accurate enough,” she said. “That was the challenge: how simplified do you make these plants and still get the point across? It is a space for children and it is a big space so you don’t what them to get overwhelmed by all the details. The kids have been really excited.”
The staff of the library has also expressed to her an appreciation for the colorful display.
Griner would love to do more public art if the right project comes along. One thing she does know is that the project did reignite in her a passion for plants she hadn’t indulged much since her youth in the Master Gardener program through Mills County Extension. The research, the painstaking detail, the mural – it inspired her to plant more native plants of her on her own property.
“I’m really excited about it but I am kind of struggling gardener,” she said. “I need to learn more. It’s easier for me to paint them than grown them right now.”