Grinnell College students and community volunteers unite to paint mural


The mural designed by Grinnell College student Tommy (Guhn) Lee has been painted on the south side of McNally’s Foods store building. 

GRINNELL, Iowa — This summer the Grinnell College Offices of International Student Affairs and Community Enhancement and Engagement are partnering with the Grinnell Area Arts Council on a community mural project to be displayed on the south side of McNally’s Foods store. The mural was designed by Grinnell College student Tommy (Guhn) Lee, class of 2022, a studio art major and a summer intern for the Arts Council. 

Monica St. Angelo, operations manager for the Grinnell Area Arts Council, said, “It’s well-known that public art can contribute to a community’s identity, foster a sense of pride and belonging, and enhance the quality of life for its residents and visitors.”

Lee’s vision for the design emerged from many conversations including some with Karen Edwards, dean and director of international student affairs. The goal was to offer opportunities for creativity and community, to increase visual sources of joy and to underscore the message that everyone from across the world is welcome here. 

Lee said, “We want to provide international students and others who may not have been able to go back to their homes for a long time due to the pandemic to have a chance to come together, de-stress and create something with our local community.”

Grinnell College student volunteers as well as community volunteers   will help paint Lee’s design. The initial painting of the mural will occur Monday through Friday evenings from July 12 until July 23 when they hope to have the mural complete. The design will include colorful caricatures of things that people eat, see and experience living in Grinnell. 

St. Angelo added, “This is a wonderful opportunity to unite Grinnell College students and community members to create a piece of public art together that can be enjoyed by everyone in the Grinnell community. There are no barriers to enjoying a mural; it’s out in the open and fun to see as you ride or walk past, or you can get up close and take selfies with it!”