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New mural offers welcome to downtown Ames

Ronna Faaborg
Ames Tribune

A colorful new work of art will soon greet Ames Main Street visitors.

Artist Andrew Maahs has been painting the piece at the west edge of Main Street this week. With an Ames appreciation theme, it is expected to be completed by next week, if not sooner.

Maahs, a Des Moines artist who owns a design and illustration company called Basemint Design with his wife, Kelly Bittner, said the mural is inspired by the Ames community and its historic downtown.

“We focus on some of the landmark buildings that have been around for a long time,” Maahs said. “The Post Office is on it, the Campanile, the library, some of those things that give Ames a certain feel."

It also includes the depot and Dinkey train, the small train that ran between Ames' downtown and what's now Iowa State University from 1891 until 1907

Artist Andrew Maahs works on a mural on Main Street in downtown Ames, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Ames, Iowa.

Maahs also incorporated some current-day things so that it’s not just a historical piece: “Like there’s an oversized fork and spoon for all the restaurants in town, there’s a big Ames heart, some community pride stuff. And obviously Iowa State is in there,” he said.

Maahs and Bittner won the competitive mural process over more than a dozen other artists. They gravitate toward bold geometrical shapes. Those graphics make a good mural, Maahs said, and create a neat photo backdrop for people visiting downtown.

At more than 100 feet wide, the painting on the west exterior wall of 546 Main St., the former Kosama building downtown, is intended to be a gateway mural, welcoming people to downtown Ames as they arrive from the west, according to John Hall, executive director of Ames Main Street.

“This is part of the goal we have as Main Street to continuously improve the destination that is downtown Ames,” Hall said. “If you think downtown Ames, we are truly a destination district.”

Without a large population of office workers or residents downtown, the district becomes a destination, he said, and Ames Main Street is continually trying to create discoverable items downtown.

“People don’t always expect to find those things, but it gives them a reason to stop and take a photo or acknowledge something they’ve discovered in downtown Ames.”