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Downtown murals to create interactive experience

  • 2 min to read

Artist James Navarro has become quite the topic of conversation around the downtown square in Winterset, as he has begun his initial painting of what will be a series of murals on the north wall in the alley east of the courthouse. 

Upon completion, the murals are designed to be interactive, offering a unique photographic experience for families in town and tourists who visit the community.

The first mural, the Welcome to Winterset design, is painted in what Navarro described as postcard style.

Welcome to Winterset mural

Artist James Navarro will be painting a series of murals in the alley east of the downtown courthouse. Upon completion, the expansive set of paintings are designed to be interactive prompting a unique photographic experience for towns folk and visiting tourists. 

“I really love postcards,” he explained, smiling with a boyish grin. “In fact, I have a whole stack of them at my studio.”

Postcard murals are a great way to combine text and imagery based off of the large letter postcards from the mid-century. This particular style of mural attracts many interactive photo ops and quickly becomes a community attraction. The level of detail involved in this style of mural is on the higher end since they are essentially mini murals within a larger mural.

Members of the community were quick to tell the artist what subject matter should be placed inside the mini murals of each letter. 

Navarro said someone came by and thought he needed to highlight a red apple to describe the Red Delicious apple that was grown by Jesse Hiatt in 1872. Another visitor, a past librarian, suggested a picture of George Stout, while members of the quilt museum said he needed to add a quilt design amongst one of the letters.

Welcome to Winterset mural

The interior of the letters highlight local attractions and history, like the Red Delicious apple, the Iowa Quilt Museum, and George L. Stout.

Also a history buff, he acknowledged that sometimes his paintings involved 90 percent research and 10 percent painting. He confessed that he had files and files of material containing lots of different subject matter inside his artist studio. As a fine artist, he was very excited to research the background history of George Stout not realizing he was from Winterset.

Weather permitting, the design and painting of the additional murals scheduled to fill the alleyway are expected to take about two weeks.

Stop by the alley east of the courthouse to view art at its finest, visit with the artist if he is on site, and take a selfie or two. 

The artist’s background

Navarro has a bachelor’s degree in design with a focus on painting, illustration and furniture from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design located in Minneapolis, Minn. A northern Wisconsin native, he currently lives and works in Des Moines. 

Best known for his Midwestern landscapes and still life compositions he approaches his work in a traditional manner painting plein air and adding his own unique style in the studio. Plein air painting or “en plein air” is a French expression meaning “in the open air” and refers to the act of painting outdoors with the artist’s subject in full view. His work is representational of a style that concentrates on light, shadows and bright colors. 

Passionate about painting, Navarro says he is always trying to perfect his craft. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to be outside with an easel, a brush and a variety of subject matter to fill his canvas. Inspired not only by the beauty in nature, Navarro also finds creativity in everyday objects and enjoys painting alongside his girlfriend, Katie Jensen, who is also a masterful artist and painter in her own right.

Welcome to Winterset mural

Mural artist James Navarro with his girlfriend Katie Jensen, who is also an artist and who has assisted with the mural preparations.

James Navarro’s artwork will also be featured during a Landscape Show, highlighting landscape pieces of all sizes for sale. Scheduled to be held on Nov. 20, his paintings will be featured along with two other artists. More details will be available at as the show draws closer.

Managing editor at the Madisonian.