University of Iowa

Keokuk-Hamilton Dam Museum Mural

A Grant Wood Public Art student will work closely with the Keokuk-Hamilton Dam Museum leadership to identify themes and imagery to be included in a mural on the side of their new home, 428 Main Street, Keokuk. The student will draft several design concepts and install the mural.

Keokuk, Iowa, is located in southern Lee County, on bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Keokuk’s population peaked at around 16,500 residents during the 1960, but with many Iowa communities saw population decline during the latter half of the 20th century. The current population has stabilized around 10,600 residents. Keokuk is also known for Lock and Dam No. 19, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1905, the U.S. Congress passed a bill granting the Keokuk and Hamilton Water Power Company the right to dam the river and construct a hydro-electric plant at the foot of the rapids and to build a new lock and dry dock to replace the 1877, canal which had become too small to handle the newer boats of the day. Construction on Lock and Dam No. 19 was started in 1910 and completed in 1913 with the cost being borne by the power company. The Keokuk Power House was the largest capacity, single powerhouse electricity generating plant in the world. The powerhouse provided electricity for Keokuk and cities as far away as St. Louis. The powerhouse also attracted industry to the Keokuk area.

Addressing Keokuk’s goal of leveraging its existing local assets by focusing on its history as a tourism generator, as well as a marketing and community branding tool, the America’s First Great Dam Foundation is opening the Keokuk-Hamilton Dam Museum on Main Street. To draw attention to this engineering marvel and the museum’s location, the Foundation will hire a University of Iowa student to design and install a mural on the building.

The Office of Outreach and Engagement works to match Iowa communities with UI faculty, students, and staff to advanced shared goals.  Communities are increasingly interested in engaging citizens through creative placemaking and public art, and the University of Iowa has a deep pool of talented, creative, and innovative art students, as well as faculty experts to help guide projects.  Communities across the state have already experienced many benefits from public art engagement projects provided by the university. In the spring of 2019, the university offered a Grant Wood Public Art Residency, during which graduate and undergraduate students learned the theory of practice of art in public spaces. The residency developed a group of emerging artists ready to meet Iowa communities’ needs.