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Grain Silo Mural Finalist Design Selection Clarification


Recently concerns were raised regarding the selection of the design for the Grain Silo Mural project. Additionally, the City Council received a petition signed by many people that incorrectly stated that the City Council chose the artist. This letter is being written to correct some misinformation regarding the process and address concerns raised.

The City Council did not choose the artist or design. The Grain Silo Mural is being funded by grants and donations that seek to establish public art in Fort Dodge and further the completion of the Northwest River District Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.  It is not being funded by taxpayer dollars. The selection of the artist was made by a group of individuals with a passion and expertise in the arts. This “committee,” for lack of a better term, includes members of the Fort Dodge Fine Art Association, the Image Committee of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, the Catherine Vincent Deardorf Charitable Foundation, City staff, as well as interested volunteers.

At the heart of current concerns is the selection of Australian Artist Guido van Helten and his proposed conceptual design rather than local artist Josh Johnson. This is based on Josh Johnson’s design winning the public’s “cast your kernel” vote held at public locations.  The concerns raised are based on the misunderstanding that the “cast your kernel” vote was the deciding factor in the selection. With that in mind, we would like to make the following clarifications:

While the public was encouraged to vote, public support was only one piece of the judging criteria as stated in the request.  Other criteria include artistic value created, image portrayed, project specifications being met, incorporation of the communities’ message, and competitive budget.

All five finalist designers have received a $1,500 stipend for their submitted proposal, as stated in the final request sent out all finalist designers.

The fifteen-member committee’s reasons for unanimously selecting van Helten’s design include the following:

  • van Helten has vast experience painting large-scale murals on existing monuments.  He has used several concrete buildings and grain elevators/silos as his canvases.  Mr. van Helten will be installing (i.e. painting) the murals himself.  Mr. Johnson’s proposal stated his mural would have been painted by a qualified installer out of Canada. The majority of the project cost will be spent on installation – materials and labor.  Thus, in either case, the funds would not have been spent on an installer from Fort Dodge. 

  • Based on his experience, van Helten’s art is designed to age best over time and has longevity.  It requires low maintenance and the neutral colors would fade over time when compared to bright, vibrant colors.

  • van Helten’s art was nearly $20,000 under the maximum budget, while Johnson’s installer’s preferred paint that would have put the project over budget.

  • van Helten’s selection provides the opportunity to have an internationally-known designer paint here in Fort Dodge.  His proposal is something unseen here in Fort Dodge – in fact, his installations exist in only 3 other locations in the United States.  His subjects (people) are the heart of our community.

The figures represented on the design are all real people from photographs that Mr. van Helten took while he visited Fort Dodge. Consistent with his process, he paid his own way to visit once after the first request for proposals was released, and a second time after the final request for proposals was released. In his second visit, he spent some time in the Limestone Mines, went fishing with a local fisherman, rode with a farmer during spring planting, observed recreation in Fort Dodge, attended Stage Door Productions’ Cabaret – A Night of Musical Theatre”; toured the Ringland/Smeltzer House and more, as seen in the images proposed. Through these visits Mr. van Helten developed his design.  Guido van Helten has completed many great works, and we are privileged to have him interested in making his mark in our Community. To see more of van Helten’s work, visit or find him on Facebook.

All proposals submitted were of outstanding design. The committee greatly appreciates the public's interest and passion for this project.

Grain Silo Mural Finalist Design Selection Clarification: News
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