The Dubuque Museum of Art (DuMA) in partnership with Voices Productions and with additional support by Trappist Caskets and Humanities Iowa, is hosting a temporary exhibition of Dana Harrison's I Am A Man mural at the corner of Bluff Street and 8th Street in downtown Dubuque.
The mural is located on a portion of the west side of a building that is planned for eventual deconstruction. “This temporary exhibition turns our gallery walls inside out through a creative reuse of a vacant radio station building,” said DuMA’s Executive Director Gary Stoppelman. “The scale of this work will engage thousands of citizens. Its impact extends beyond the building to include the conversations it inspires and the educational opportunities it creates.”
The Museum will host a free community conversation in Washington Park on Sunday, April 11 at 1 PM between, the artist, artist assistant and Museum Curator. The rain date is April 18. Painting, weather permitted, will begin Sunday, April 11th.
Mr. Harrison is an Iowa native who discovered a passion for letters and characters in the mid 1990s. He studied under Dasc of the mwck’z (Midwest can controllerz) and the late Sazko of the Belgium bombers, and is a member of the Scarce Elements Crew. Fellow Iowa graffiti writer Asphate will work with Harrison on this mural.
The mural is inspired by a photograph taken on April 8, 1968 by photojournalist Bob Adelman at the memorial march in Memphis, Tennessee for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who had been assassinated just days before. Dr. King was planning to lead the I Am a Man march in Memphis supporting a sanitation workers strike that had begun in February. The workers were striking over their dangerous, low-paying working conditions as well as the racial violence of the era. The man in the image is carrying one of the hundreds of I AM A MAN signs made for the march. Instead of a march led by Dr. King, the man carries it in mourning for Dr. King's murder.
The location for this temporary installation is also significant. The intersection at Bluff and 8th is where the Dubuque Museum of Art was originally established in 1874, now the home of the Telegraph Herald offices. Across the street, where today there is a parking lot, was once the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This church served the small Black neighborhood that was centered just up 8th Street around the intersections of Hill and University in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In addition, I Am A Man is a fitting image for the Museum campus that sits adjacent to Washington Square Park, a popular location, historically and today, where local citizens gather, march, and protest.
The I Am A Man mural is a compelling and powerful image that depicts a pivotal moment in history. It bears witness to the courageous protesters who faced violence and brutality in the battle for civil rights. While the building remains, the mural is a reminder of the struggles of the past and how far we have yet to go. Because it is temporary, the image calls on us to carry its message forward.