A new look - Welcome to Clarksville mural slated for revitalization

The Welcome to Clarksville mural on Main Street is slated for a new look in 2021. (Bethany Carson photo)
Bethany Carson

The Clarksville Visioning Committee is seeking community input as plans are made to revitalize the Welcome to Clarksville mural downtown.

     The mural’s theme is “Our Midwestern Heritage.” It was originally painted by high schoolers in 1981. Clarksville art teachers Laura (Cleppe) Schrage and Laura Blanchet coordinated the mural design project for the Community Betterment Council, which sought out designs from the community and students for the mural.

     The completed design, seen in Clarksville’s downtown today, shows a corn stalk and cow representing the area’s agricultural economy, with a rainbow of hope leading to a tree. The tree signifies the community’s roots and growth out of Iowa’s fertile soil. Seven circles on the tree signify the fruits of Clarksville’s labors.

     Clarksville took second place in the Iowa Community Betterment Contest with the mural in November of 1981. And the mural was repainted by the Clarksville High School Art Department in time for the Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2003.

     According to Visioning Committee member Jeff Kolb, there has been renewed interest in the mural of late.

     “Since Maddie Poppe won American Idol, there has been traffic in town of people looking for something to take a selfie with,” Kolb said.

     From her office across the street, Visioning Committee member Char Clark has seen an amazing number of people stop by to take a picture next to the mural.

     “We thought it would be a good project to update and incorporate, so that when they’re taking a selfie, it’s more than just a tourist stop; it’s a marketing piece to advertise points of interest in the design…” said Kolb. “When people take pictures, they’ll also be spreading the word about attractions in Clarksville.”

     The mural will retain its current concept and the tie-in with agriculture, but with new elements incorporated within the design, as Clarksville has seen many “fruits of their labors” unique to the community added to town over the years. The “Welcome to Clarksville” font will also likely be getting a revamp.

     “New things have been developed in Clarksville since 1981. We thought it would be a good way to freshen it up…” said Kolb.      “It needs to be updated. It’s been 17 years since it was last touched [with paint.]”

     The Visioning Committee has created a survey for Clarksville residents to vote on what local attractions will be featured on the revamped mural. The survey is located at the end of this article, and a link to the survey is also available on the City of Clarksville website.

     Clarksville points of interest considered for inclusion in the mural include Rolling Prairie Trail, Heery Woods State Park, the popcorn stand, the bandstand at Reading Park, the splash pad, golf course, youth sports and 2018 American Idol Maddie Poppe. Other suggestions are also welcome.

     Survey responses will be accepted through October 15, and the most popular six attractions will be represented artistically on the mural.

     A Paint Iowa Beautiful grant is available annually statewide, and the Visioning Committee will apply for that grant to cover the cost of paint. The deadline for applying for the grant is the end of this calendar year, and Kolb anticipates painting will start in the spring of 2021 with a goal of completion by Memorial Day/before Pioneer Days.

     Volunteers will be sought to help with painting the mural. Since the mural was originally painted by high school students, the Visioning Committee will be in communication with Clarksville Schools to invite students to get involved in the revitalization project. Kolb also plans to reach out to adult volunteers, talented artists with a Clarksville connection.

     One volunteer who is already involved with the project is one of the original project coordinators, retired art teacher Laura (Cleppe) Schrage.

     “I think it’s exciting to get to see [the mural] touched up. To me that means it’s a valuable part of the community,” Schrage said.

     She recalls how the mural project first originated.

     “[Laura Blanchet] and I were talking about how we needed something to help people be proud of their community; that was the start of it, and we just kind of put together some of those ideas,” said Schrage.

     Students and the community came together to offer ideas, which were incorporated into the design, and art students and recent graduates used scaffolding to paint the mural after school and on Saturdays throughout the fall of 1981.

     “It was delightful. Working with the students was wonderful…” Schrage said.  “When they take on a project like that for the community, there’s pride in what they did.”

     Most all of the paint for the project was donated. It was very difficult to find outdoor latex paint in orange at the time; however, so the students weren’t able to include the full colors of the rainbow.

     At the time, the building was home to Cleppe Home Furnishing.

     “I was in and out all the time, and felt the building location was perfect for that,” Schrage said.

     The project tied together a wealth of learning opportunities for art students. Not only did they refine their art skills, but the project also included communication skills and math and led to personal pride in the project and in the community. The paint used for the mural was good quality and lasted for decades with only one touch-up. It was special to achieve something that through the years has shown up in different photographs featuring the town of Clarksville.

     To Schrage, murals are landmarks. She and her husband enjoy taking tractor rides to other communities and visiting their Freedom Rocks and murals. It’s a special way for communities to show their pride in their heritage – and murals are a way for small towns to stand out to visitors.

     Kolb anticipates that there will be a lot of pent up desire to travel next year if life somewhat returns to normal. It will be nice to have a revitalized mural downtown for visitors to Clarksville to admire ­– a mural that could draw attention to the community’s other attractions.

     “We’ve had a lot of investment and new attractions in the community. … The next generation younger than me, millennials … are all about the experience. 2020 has made us all aware that maybe we don’t have to travel halfway across the country to enjoy life,” Kolb said.

     All you may have to do is travel to Clarksville. Recently, usage of the bike trail has gone up significantly, and many bicyclists have been spotted around town.

     “We want to bring awareness that there are nice attractions and points of interests in town. The splash pad brings a lot of people to town. The popcorn stand brings a lot of people, and the music at Reading Park, in normal circumstances, also brings a lot of people to town. Clarksville has a long history of music, and I think in a time with everything about the experience, that we’re just going to build on that,” Kolb said.

     The Visioning Committee is also planning to add wayfaring signs around town in 2021, which will direct visitors to these attractions.

     “That’s a project we’ll be rolling out, and hopefully the mural is a perfect fit for the visual of Clarksville,” Kolb said. “After the Maddie Poppe event in 2018, people have been posting pictures/selfies on Facebook next to the mural, and we want to make sure that’s put out in a good light for the community.”

     Which Clarksville attractions do you feel it’s most important to promote?

     Circle six out of the nine options offered to vote for what you would like to see featured on the mural; clip and return your answers to the drop box at Mike and Char Clark’s Farm Bureau Financial Services office.


  1. Rolling Prairie Bike Trail.
  2. Maddie Poppe, 2018 American Idol.
  3. Bandstand at Reading Park
  4. Splash pad
  5. Popcorn stand
  6. Heery Woods State Park
  7. Golf course
  8. Youth sports
  9. Other


Tribune-Journal & Star

101 N. Main St.
P.O. Box 788
Clarksville, IA 50619
Phone: 319-278-4641

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit www.midampublishing.com for more information.