Sep 1, 2021 - News

Des Moines' iconic MLK mural is fading away

A mural of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Des Moines.

Des Moines’ mural of Martin Luther King Jr. soon after it was completed last year. Photo courtesy of Rich Eychaner

An iconic mural of Martin Luther King Jr. in downtown Des Moines is quickly fading and it may be too costly to restore, the property’s manager told Axios this week.

Why it matters: "Martin" is believed to be the largest mural of the civil rights leader in the nation.

  • It was unveiled just a year ago as inspiration for peace during civil unrest following the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
  • The acrylic paint did not tolerate Iowa's harsh weather and it began fading soon after. Now it's barely recognizable.

Context: Artist Michael Bowser and about three dozen volunteers completed the mural last year. It's roughly 80,000 square feet and covers multiple parking lots at the MLK River Park shopping and office district.

State of play: The solutions may be cost prohibitive, Rich Eychaner, a manager of the development, told Axios this week.

  • Restoration using special paint will cost an estimated $500K and even that will last only an estimated five years, Eychaner said.
  • Color-enhanced concrete might work but it’s also costly and could be difficult to get the right shades, he said.

What's next: Owners are "kind of stymied" about what to do and would appreciate community input for possible solutions, Eychaner said.

  • "Maybe it was just a 2020 product that spoke to the times and the protests we had," he said.

Got solutions? Email Eychaner or call him at 515-262-0000, x101

A photo of a mural of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Des Moines.
Downtown resident Jill Johnson alerted Axios to the faded mural. She'd like to see it restored. Photo courtesy of Johnson

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