Mural painted on north side of Dubuque St. parking ramp represents unity among Iowa City community 

Ten hours a day artist Elezier Antonio Sotillo Rodriguez diligently painted. For 22 days straight he continued to map out and execute his five-story mural titled “Solidarity.” He painted over 43-hundred square feet of public space with his black and white graffiti-style vision.

“It was great and a little nerve-racking a couple of times towards the higher parts,” Sotillo said. “I used a boom lift which is more commonly known as a cherry picker.”

Accepts The Challenge

Sotillo, 30, studied Painting and Drawing and received his BFA from the University of Iowa. He is currently working towards becoming a certified teacher in Art Education.  He gladly accepted the challenge to design and execute a mural for the public.

HotelVetro owner Marc Moen commissioned the artwork to be installed. Moen along with spouse Bobby Jett approved the sketch he drew for the mural before turning it over the the city.

“[The sketch] had to be shown to the city of Iowa City Public Art Committee and they approved it,” Jett said. “There were no ideas other than the mural and in fact if the mural was not approved that Eli did, I don’t think a mural would be on that wall today. Nothing would be.”

Jett said that Moen wanted to encourage art in a public space. The two also knew the artist and wanted to support his work, which they are very fond of.

High Traffic Location

The spot where the mural is located may seem unusual. While it does appear to be hidden behind the Bread Garden Market it is actually an area that receives a high amount of pedestrian traffic.

“That spot seemed like a natural spot,” Jett said. “It has been well received on a whole I would say and I hope there are more throughout the city.”

Solidarity is the largest public work that Sotillo has ever done. He said that he has seen a lot of good feedback and that people seem to be most curious about the whole process and concept behind the mural.

Gabi MacKay, an Iowa City local and Manager at Micky’s Irish Pub was working at the Bread Garden Market when the painting process began.

“It was a cool process to see because of the large scale he was working on,” MacKay said. “I like that they are taking the side of a parking garage and using it for art space.”

She said she believes it is well received by the public, although personally she wishes there was more color in the design.

A Vision of Unity

“It is about unification of people regardless of who we are, our backgrounds, sexual orientation or religious beliefs, ” Sotillo said. “Regardless of where we live we all have one common theme and the one thing that truly binds us is to live a happy life.”

He believes it will take a lifetime to discover why we are all so different [and treat each other differently], yet we want the same things. It appears as though this is another one of life’s seemingly impossible questions.

The University of Iowa Museum of Art hosted their kickoff First Friday event of the year featuring Sotillo.

Sotillo said the reception had a great turnout and in out of all of his shows or exhibitions an overwhelming amount community members showed up to learn about the mural.

He enlightened the audience by sharing his vision in both words and with his work as the backdrop.

“One of the reasons why I chose black and white was because they are not true colors, they are values,” he said. “In order for the color spectrum to work you need both black and white.”

His concept extends further to encompass the community as a whole. In order for the community to work and function harmoniously both ends of the spectrum are needed. The two values allow for all colors to radiate. Sotillo hopes the images of the intertwined hands remind the community of unity and togetherness.



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2 Responses to Solidarity

  1. What an exciting idea to spruce up a blank wall. There is nothing I love more in a city than artful graffiti. I think there is something so creative and vibrant about empty public wall space turning into a public art domain. I recently went to Tunis, Tunisia, and they had transformed the highway supports and walls into painted murals which were particularly fetching.

  2. I pass by this often and did not know anything about it. Great story idea. In fact, the whole blog theme is great. I think I pass public art a lot that I don’t even think about. It is interesting to know the ideas and themes behind them.

    You do point out that it seems to be an usual spot, but it is high in traffic. But I agree with your earlier statement, I think it is hidden by Bread Garden.

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