Meet Northwest Iowa’s ‘City of Murals’ Town

By Ty Rushing

July 22, 2021

One Iowa community literally painted the town to tell its story.

Rock Rapids is home to 36 murals that depict notable events and people from the Lyon County seat situated in Iowa’s northwest-most corner. The community is so proud of these accomplishments that one of its nicknames is the “City of Murals.”

The Rock Rapids Mural Society is the group behind the wall art and it was started in 2002 by resident Sandy Wynia. She was inspired to bring public art to her city after a visit to Toppenish, Washington, which is home to nearly 80 murals.

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Visitors can stop at the Rock Rapids Chamber of Commerce office during normal business hours to grab a community guide that includes addresses for all 36 murals so that you can take a self-guided tour of the city and take in the artwork.

Here are some favorites from editor Ty Rushing’s recent day trip to Iowa’s “City of Murals.”

“2014 Rock River Flood Mural”

This was the 29th mural painted in the city and it highlights one of the worst natural disasters the city has faced. A number of homes and businesses were destroyed in the flood, but the community continues to rebuild and this captures that spirit.

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“Rock Rapids Volunteer Fire Dept.”

A nice tribute to the city’s volunteer firefighters who have served Rock Rapids since 1873.

“Vintage Popcorn Wagon”

I didn’t know popcorn wagons were a thing until I saw this mural. Besides the learning aspect, I just think it’s well done.

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“Forster Mural”

This mural was dedicated to James “Frosty” and Ella Forster, longtime business owners in the community. The couple never had children and when Ella died in 1987, she created a trust that has gone on to fund a number of community improvement projects in Rock Rapids.

“Dr. A.C. Wubbena”

Dr. Wubbena served as a practitioner for 45 years and, in that time, he delivered more babies than the town’s current population of nearly 2,600 residents. Also, look at how cool this picture of him is!

Be sure to check out the Iowa Starting Line Facebook page for more mural photos and tell us which ones are your favorites.


by Ty Rushing

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  • Ty Rushing

    Ty Rushing is the Chief Political Correspondent for Iowa Starting Line. He is a trail-blazing veteran Iowa journalist, an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and co-founder and president of the Iowa Association of Black Journalists. Send tips or story ideas to [email protected] and find him on social media @Rushthewriter.

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