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MacNider mural brings Mason City families together during pandemic
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MacNider mural brings Mason City families together during pandemic

MacNider space mural

Over the course of several days, the MacNider Art Museum allowed Mason City families to come in and contribute to a mural about outer space. Director Edith Blanchard said the project is something new for the museum and a way to foster creativity and community in a difficult time.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have found new ways to bond: maybe a socially distanced walk or a mass Zoom call with friends from college.

For the Charles H. MacNider Art Museum in Mason City, community building has come through painting.

In recent days, the museum sponsored a project through its annual festival that allowed up to 12 families to each paint a square for a mural about the vast expanse of outer space and all its wonders. 

"It’s important for people to experience art," museum director Edith Blanchard said. "The museum is still open and we want to make sure people come here but it’s one thing to look at the art and it’s a whole other thing to do art."

The way that it worked is that over several days one family at a time would come in to paint their own square with relative freedom (that were only light prompts from museum workers). Then, when one family finished, the supplies and area would be cleaned and then another family would come in to indulge their inner artist. 

A bulk of the work was done over the three days of the festival, but Blanchard said that the last little bit was finished on Wednesday. Soon enough, the completed work will hang in the museum's education hallway.

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"It really shows all the diverse kinds of art that people like. You have some that are more swirling and mystical. Some that are more cartoonlike. Some that are realistic. Some that are by people who are little. That’s important too," Blanchard said. 

For her, it was important to have such a project for people not just to do a bit of community building, but because a lot of opportunities for activities have fallen by the wayside this year.

"A lot of things have been canceled. A lot of things have been postponed. So people have more time on their hands and we thought this might be a good opportunity for people who might not have done this before to come and give it a try," Blanchard said.

It's a new opportunity for the museum as well and one that it's more than keen to try again. 

"I definitely think we’ll be doing it in the future because it was very successful," Blanchard said. "We really want to encourage people to come and do art and do art safely."

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Jared McNett covers local government for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at or by phone at 641-421-0527. Follow Jared on Twitter at @TwoHeadedBoy98.


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