Public art takes root Flower garden blossoms on building exterior

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Upper Iowa University art student Jordyn Brennan puts the final touches an a large mural on the south side of the Fire Farm building. Her work has caught the attention of Elkader residents and visitors, many of who stopped to chat with her during the weeks-long project.
Upper Iowa University art student Jordyn Brennan puts the final touches an a large mural on the south side of the Fire Farm building. Her work has caught the attention of Elkader residents and visitors, many of who stopped to chat with her during the weeks-long project.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

In a move as innovative as the products his company designs and sells, Fire Farm owner Adam Pollock has commissioned a mural for one side of his downtown Elkader office building. Upper Iowa University art student Jordyn Brennan has spent the past few weeks transforming the concrete “canvas” into a colorful, larger-than-life flower garden. She’s even added a nod to one of the town’s special festivals: Her garden includes several giant milkweeds.

“This is my first really big project,” said Jordyn, a native of Hortonville, WI. Usually I can carry around the pieces I do but, of course, there’s no doing that with this one. I’ve been taking lots of pictures, though. My mom’s pretty excited about it.”

Jordyn’s own enthusiasm is apparent as she applies a special mural paint to the white basecoat images of her piece. She’s almost always smiling as she works. “My dream job is being able to paint full-time,” she says. “This is a little taste of that dream.”

With the urging of her art professors, Jordyn applied for Elkader’s Art in the Alley project. She was a finalist but ultimately wasn’t chosen to participate in that effort. Pollock, who serves on the selection committee, was so impressed by her talent that he decided to commission her to add some outdoor art to his business. This was not a unique move for Pollock. The sides of his production facility, which is located across the street from the Fire Farm office building, have become an ever-changing art gallery showcasing the talents of his employees and others.

Jordyn has worked on the mural daily, weather permitting. She’s happy with the results and even happier—as well as a bit amazed—by the input she’s received.

“People will honk and wave as they drive by, and those who walk by will stop and complement my work, which feels really good,” she admitted. “I’ve even had people bring me a soda!”

The vibrancy of the work is due to a special paint Jordyn has used.

“It’s mural paint and it dries really quickly, and that’s been a good thing recently with the rain we’ve had,” she said. “I’ve left Elkader and 10 minutes down the road I’m in a downpour. My first thought is always ‘Oh no! Did I just lose a day’s work?’ But thankfully, that hasn’t been the case.”

When the mural is completed, Jordyn will cover the entire surface with a clear varnish that will protect the work for years to come.

The original commission was for a 30x60-foot stretch of the building, which is about half the south wall.

“I’ve always felt that wall is a big ugly monolith that everybody sees when they come into town,” Fire Farm Director of Operations Craig Bennett said. “This so much more inviting!”

Jordyn will be a senior at Upper Iowa this fall, and plans to continue her education to earn a master’s in painting.

“That will buy me some time to figure out what I really want to do, and it will also qualify me to teach art, if I want,” she explained.

Regardless of where she goes from here, Jordyn will long be remembered by Elkader residents and visitors as we enjoy her beautiful flower garden.

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