How to Create a Mural for Your Community

Murals are a popular form of public art for communities across the country, due in part to their versatility and high visibility. Below are a few things you will want to consider when planning a mural for your town. (This article will help get you started, but for a more detailed look into creating a mural, we highly recommend this webinar from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs:

 Picking a location

  • Visibility
    • Is the mural in a location where it will be easily seen and enjoyed by many?
  • Surface suitability
    • Make sure the surface of the wall is stable – not crumbling or decaying.
    • Identify areas you will need to work around, such as windows or other features.
  • Historic considerations
    • If working on a historic building, you’ll likely need to avoid the façade, but a side wall may be suitable.
  • Property owner support
    • Not only permission, but enthusiasm is best.
  • “Off-the-wall” murals
    • Murals can also be painted on the ground on sidewalks, plazas or stairs.


Getting permission and community support

  • Check with the City to see if there are any city codes or governing bodies that provide direction on mural locations, size, or other factors. You may need to seek permission from the art commission (if one exists) or get a permit.
  • Most towns have ordinances that would prohibit a mural that would be construed as a commercial sign or “advertising.”
  • Reach out to community members and nearby property owners to get their input and support of the location and design.


Choosing an artist

  • Local artists
    • Opportunity to “buy local” and celebrate the talent in your own community
  • High school art students (under guidance of a teacher)
    • Lower cost (or free), but more variability in quality
  • Hiring well-known/national artists
    • Higher cost, but greater notoriety
  • Collaborative: Created by members of community under direction of an artist
    • Great community-building activity, but less control over quality


Mural Content

What theme will your mural portray and what style of art will it be? Will it be an abstract piece? A symbol of community togetherness? A historic scene or a tribute to the past? A representation of the town’s brand or identity? Consider your goals for creating the mural and what impression you want to give to residents and visitors in your town. There’s no wrong answer – but the mural content will likely influence your choice of location, artist and technique.



While many murals are painted directly on the wall, there are a number of other techniques that offer differences in cost, longevity and technical difficulty. For example, some murals are done on panels with paint or photo-transfer, and then attached to the wall. Your selected artist should be able to advise on technique.


How much paint?

One of the most common questions about murals is: how many gallons of paint will I need? It is hard to give an exact answer, since it depends on the size of the mural, the surface (will it need multiple coats? primer? sealant?), and the number of colors used. A small mural could be painted for as little as 5-6 gallons of paint, while a larger mural might take 30 gallons or more. Work with your artist to determine the details and make an accurate estimate.



How much does it cost?

Costs can be as little as the cost of a few gallons of paint, up to $40,000 or more, depending on who is painting it and how big it is. Generally “you get what you pay for” in terms of artists. However, keep in mind that while a free mural done by students will not be as polished as a professionally done mural by an established artist, both can be just as endearing to the community.

Here are some examples of costs of murals in Hometown Pride communities

Hamburg IA:

  • 2 murals at $17/sq foot. 14’x32’ mural for $7,600. 12’x15’ mural for $3,000
    • Painted on concrete stucco on the side of brick walls.
    • Committee primed surface.
    • Artist hand-painted mural.

Tabor IA:

  • $1,925 for 10’x40’ mural
    • Photo-transfer onto mounted metal panels.
    • Artist donated his labor.
    • Expect to last 15 years.

Pocahontas County IA:

  • 5 murals painted by art students or community artists at no cost.
  • Received paint from Paint Iowa Beautiful grant.

Clinton IA:

  • 2 murals done for $5-$7,000 each

Norwalk IA

  • Mural done for free by high school art students and their teacher, with paint from the Paint Iowa Beautiful grant.

Where do I get funding?

  • Grants from private foundations or State agencies
  • Local fundraising – go to individuals and businesses in your community who support the arts. Talk to businesses that are nearby the proposed mural.
  • City budget – some communities have an annual budget for public art. That is typically managed by a public art commission.
  • In-kind donations of paint and labor

How to keep volunteers around – Top 10 Tips

How to Boost Volunteer Retention When YOU Are A Volunteer Too

Tips for Hometown Pride Committees, or any Volunteer-Based Community Organization

Hometown Pride runs on volunteers! We have 75 volunteers working in our 7 communities. We all put in a lot of hard work, and it’s important that we help each other stay motivated, so that we can keep all these great volunteers around for the long haul. Here are the 10 main ways we support each other – make sure you read the last one!

  1. Thank you, Way to go, We couldn’t do it without you! Offering words of encouragement is one of the simplest ways to support each other. Make sure people know that you’ve noticed their hard work. You don’t have to go over-the-top (some people get embarrassed by TOO much praise), but a simple “thank you” goes a long way.
  2. Help Uncover Hidden Talents. Take some time to get to know more about each other so you can find out what strengths each person brings to the table. Are they an avid gardener? Put them in charge of landscaping during a clean-up day. Are they a sales pro? Maybe they can apply that to committee fundraising.
  3. Let everyone take charge of something. Make sure everyone has something they can take ownership of for the group. If someone feels indispensable, they will keep showing up even when life gets busy. Take a look at the agenda of a typical meeting – if you were to put a name or two by each item, how many different people would be represented? If someone looks at the agenda and sees an item with their name next to it, they’re more likely to show up prepared! It’s best if people choose what they are in charge of, rather than someone assigning it to them, so pay attention to what they are passionate about and help them find a way to incorporate that into what the group is doing.
  4. Respect the value of their time. We should always be thoughtful about the work that we assign to our fellow committee members, to make sure it is necessary and will be put to good use. It may help to know that the value of an hour of volunteer time is estimated to be about $23. Before we ask someone to take on a new task, take a minute to reflect: would I pay someone $23 an hour to do this? If not, maybe it’s not worth their time!
  5. Remind them how important their work is. Take a moment now and then to remember WHY we are doing what we do. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just making a simple observation about the value of a recent accomplishment can help. For example: “I’m so glad we threw that event. It really seemed to bring the town together!” Or, “The kids will love this new playground, and I bet it will help bring new families to town too!”
  6. Provide the Right Resources. Is someone struggling to complete their assigned task? Maybe they don’t have the right resources. Do they need help connecting to the right person, finding funding options, or getting advice from someone who has done this before? Who can help direct them?
  7. Make new people feel welcome. Take time to welcome new people during the meeting. Check in one-on-one afterward to get them up to speed and answer questions. Check in often the first few months.
  8. Stay in Touch. For volunteers who are just pitching in once or twice a year, find a way to keep in touch, perhaps through social media, e-mail updates, a thank you note, etc.
  9. Make friends! When members of a group like each other, they’ll be more likely to stick around. Get to know each other, either by hosting a social event, opening a meeting with an ice-breaker question, or simply making small talk before the meeting. Hold an occasional meeting in an informal location, such as a restaurant (or bring food to the regular meeting location), to help people feel more at ease with each other.
  10. MOST IMPORANTLY, Do Great Work. This may seem too obvious, but the best way to retain volunteers is to focus your energy on valuable, inspiring projects that further your mission. Easier said than done, right?! But if you find your volunteers aren’t engaged, it’s possible that you are chasing the wrong ideas. Take a step back and consider the following: the purpose of the group, the passions/strengths of the members, the needs of the community. Is your work in line with all that? If not, it may be time to rethink and redirect your efforts.

— Tips compiled by Warren County Hometown Pride Coach, Lorin Ditzler and inspired by our awesome volunteers!  

We’re in the News!

Did you see the article about Hometown Pride in the Record-Herald and on It reviews the first year of progress for our 7 Hometown Pride communities in Warren County, and our plans for 2019.

Click to read: Hometown Pride looks to grow Warren County efforts in 2019

A few snippets from the article:

  • “Hometown Pride has far exceeded my expectations of what I thought we could accomplish…”
  • “These kinds of community betterment programs are a critical part of economic development…”
  • “The grassroots community improvement program has already accomplished a lot, but there’s more to come…”

10 Grant tips from a Pro

Looking for money to support your organization’s next important project? You may want to consider applying for a grant. We had the pleasure of hearing from speaker Jane Colacecchi this week who writes grants as part of her work at her company JHC Associates. Here are some of the tips that we took away from her presentation:

  1. Read the directions carefully. Then read them again. …and again. If they ask for 4 copies, give them 4 copies. If they want it mailed, don’t e-mail it! If it’s due by 5 pm, don’t drop it off at 5:01.
  2. Focus your application on the specific piece of the project that you are asking them to fund. Your funding request may be part of a larger project, but the funder is primarily interested in the part that they will be funding. Spend the majority of your time explaining that one piece of the project and why it is important. An example: Let’s say you are doing a historic building renovation over the course of several years, and are asking for money to replace the roof this year. Focus on describing the roof replacement, rather than giving detail about the window replacements you’ll do next year, or the foundation work you did 2 years ago.
  3. Explain why your organization is credible and can be trusted to complete the project. Many applications ask you to give an overview of your organization. This is your chance to raise their confidence that you will make good use of their funds. Talk about your past successes and other things that show your stability and ability to follow through.
  4. Tell them “why” your project matters to the community. Don’t just tell them “what” you will do. Tell them “why” it’s important. What problem are you solving? What positive impact will it have?
  5. Project budgets must be supported properly. Don’t guess on costs for your project. Make sure to get bids from the vendor or service provider, and include that documentation in your grant. Simply getting a price from a catalog may not be sufficient for some applications.
  6. Matching funds. If you can show that you already have money committed to the project, that will help your application (and some grants require it).  However, as long as a match is not required, don’t let a lack of a match stop you from applying. You may still score high enough in other areas to qualify for funding.
  7. Contact the grant maker. It’s always a good idea to contact the person in charge of the grant for questions or clarification (look for the contact person listed in the application). Do not be afraid to ask questions!
  8. Proof read! Have at least 2 people read over the grant to review content and look for grammatical errors. This means you can’t wait until the last minute to write the application!
  9. Use the scoring matrix. Many grant applications include a table that explains exactly how you will be scored by the grant review panel. Make sure to use this and write your grant so that it will score at the highest level! (See example matrix below from the Warren County Philanthropic Partnership grant).
  10. Identify measurable outcomes, within the right timeframe. When the funder asks how you plan to evaluate your outcomes, they will be interested in things that can be objectively measured, and will occur within the timeframe of the grant. An example: If you are replacing playground equipment, one outcome will be the number of people per day that use the playground in the months following the installation, and how much that has increased from before the replacement. 


The MOST IMPORTANT “tip” of all – Get it done! The tips above are all best practices, but the most important thing is that you get the application done. Even if it’s not perfect, as long as you complete every section and do not get disqualified (make sure you follow the directions!), you still have a shot at that money. If you don’t turn it in, your chances are zero! 😉

Click here for the full powerpoint from Jane’s presentation, “How to write a winning grant”

Ready to go after a grant? Here is a list of grant opportunities for Warren County organizations and governments: Grant Opportunities for Warren County Orgs

More grant listings and links to applications on our grant resources page.


Example Grant Scoring Matrix:

WCPP scoring matrix.png

Volunteer with Hometown Pride in 2019!

Make a New Years Resolution to volunteer with Hometown Pride in 2019! Sign up here.

We have committees working in 7 towns – Carlisle, Cumming, Hartford, Indianola, Milo, New Virginia, and Norwalk – and they all depend on residents like you volunteering your time and talents. Here are some of the things that volunteers did for Hometown Pride this year:

  • Cleaned up parks and streets
  • Built a mobile stage for a 4th of July parade
  • Planned a block party
  • Dressed up as Charlie Brown
  • Designed logos and posters
  • Baked cookies 🙂
  • Wrote grants
  • Drove through town looking for the best Christmas lights (and giving them an award!)
  • Planned a music festival
  • Hosted a “front porch” party for their neighbors
  • Wrote news releases
  • Hung up flyers
  • Designed and wrote a community directory
  • Visited another town to get ideas to bring back to their community
  • Took photos
  • Designed new entrance signs
  • Planned an outdoor concert
  • Watered trees
  • Shared Hometown Pride news on social media
  • Managed the committee bank account
  • Designed a veteran’s memorial
  • Installed a playground swing
  • Rode through town in a convertible, handing out festival tickets
  • Presented to city council
  • Created a new city motto
  • Picked out community Christmas decorations
  • Served food
  • Pulled weeds

Contact us, or any existing Hometown Pride volunteer, to find out more about how to volunteer.

Happy One-Year Anniversary Hometown Pride!

About a year ago we announced the beginning of Hometown Pride in Warren County! Since then, we’ve been pretty busy. After recruiting about 80 volunteers to start 7 new committees, we hosted a music festival, created a community directory, started building a few playgrounds, threw a block party, helped clean up our towns a few times, and a lot more. We started or completed more than 30 projects in 2018, logged about 2,000 volunteer hours, raised around $50,000, amassed more than 2,500 followers on social media, and worked in partnership with at least 25 other community organizations.

Check out our 2018 Year-End Report to read about all we did in our first year!

9 Tips for Hometown Pride Facebook Pages

Our Hometown Pride committees are engaging their communities through social media! Here are a few things we’ve learned about getting people’s attention on our posts. What tips would you add to this list?

1. Pictures, pictures, pictures. A single, engaging picture is one of the best ways to engage people. Close-up photos of people (like this one!) definitely get attention. Take pictures of your committee in action, or pictures of a project you’re working on.


2. Hit on the Hot Topics! Find a way to connect the news of the day to your cause and community.


3. Be brief. Use as few words as possible to get your points across. Posts that include just a short phrase or sentence usually perform better than longer posts.

4. Be enthusiastic! Don’t be afraid to show enthusiasm. Sharing that you are “so excited to introduce our newest volunteers!” will get more attention than “we have 3 new committee members.”

5. Ask people to participate. Ask thought-provoking and fun questions or take polls. And don’t be shy about asking people to like and share your page!


6. Post often and schedule in advance. Many experts recommend posting on Facebook at least once a day, but for volunteer-run pages like ours, once or twice a week is a more reasonable goal. Because of the way Facebook works, the more often people engage with your page, the more likely they are to see your next post. Try planning your posts out and scheduling them in advance so you only have to think about it a few times a month!


7. Use Events. If you have an event coming up, try creating a Facebook event. You can post updates directly in the event (under “discussion”), and everyone who has clicked “yes” or “interested” will be notified.


8. “Tag” other organizations, individuals and local businesses. When you tag an organization or individual, everyone who follows that organization may also see your post. (To tag someone, type @ and then start typing their name, and their name should automatically pop-up as an option to select and tag)

9. Coordinate multiple admins. If you have multiple administrators, make sure you are all on the same wavelength as far as what you are posting and when. One way to do this is to schedule posts in advance (see Tip #6), so the other admins can see they are coming and plan their posts around it.

BONUS TIP #10: Do something great! You can use all the tricks you want, but ultimately the most important “trick” is to do good work that people love. By far our most popular post so far was an offer to help out our neighbors. That’s what it’s all about!


– Tips compiled by Warren County Hometown Pride Coach, Lorin Ditzler and Carlisle Hometown Pride Treasurer (and Facebook admin), Emily Nordyke.

Tips for Running Efficient Meetings

We’ve got a lot of meetings going on for Hometown Pride, and we know you want them to be as productive as possible. Here are a few tips for running an efficient meeting!

  • Have an Agenda: Always have a clear agenda that outlines the topics to be discussed
  • Start on Time: Start meetings at the time stated on the agenda. Meetings that start on time end on time.
  • Time Limits: Include approximate time frames for each discussion item on the agenda, and stick to them.
  • Meeting leader: Each meeting needs a clear leader – someone who will make sure that the agenda is followed.
  • DO Interrupt: While we usually try our best NOT to interrupt people, when you are the meeting leader, sometimes you have to! It’s natural for conversations to get sidetracked, and it’s up to the meeting leader to get them back on track, even if that means (politely) interrupting.
  • Preparation: The meeting leader should sure to have the background information needed to make decisions during the meeting. Or, if other committee members are responsible for bringing the necessary information, the meeting leader should check with them in advance to make sure they are prepared.
  • “Parking Lot”: Inevitably, important ideas or topics will arise that are not on the agenda (or can not be resolved in the allotted time frame). These can sidetrack the meeting and keep you from completing your agenda. Keep a running list of those discussion items to put in the “parking lot” until later, and then make a plan at the end of the meeting for if/when you will address those (like putting it on the agenda for next time, forming a subcommittee, or resolving via e-mail).
  • Make sure people feel heard: If it seems like someone keeps repeating the same idea, it’s probably because they feel they haven’t been heard yet. The meeting leader should make sure to acknowledge the point, either by addressing it immediately, putting it in the “parking lot” for later, or even writing down people’s ideas somewhere visible, like a white board.
  • Follow up: When an item requires action, determine who will be responsible for that and include follow-up on the next meeting’s agenda.

What other tips would you add to this list?

$16,500 awarded to Hometown Pride

Four of our Hometown Pride projects received funding from the Warren County Philanthropic Partnership, for a total of $16,500 in the 2018 grant cycle. The projects were:

  • Carlisle – Playground Equipment for Lindhardt (South) Park: $4,200
  • Norwalk – Cemetery Landscaping (in partnership with the City of Norwalk): $4,900
  • New Virginia – Street Sign Replacement (in partnership with the City of New Virginia): $2,700
  • Hartford – Christmas Lights (through Hartford Betterment Committee): $4,700

The grant recipients were recognized at a reception in Norwalk on May 15.


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