Oavers history and art illuminate a landmark building in South Riverside Park in town, with a nod to modernity and a nod to the past.
A mural created by Dan Hatala of Waverly and commissioned by the city, took shape this week on the north side of the Exchange Building, facing the fire station, to the delight of cyclists, runners and walkers along from the Cedar River Trail.
Watching the artist turn the planked wall into a mural, many stopped to chat, ask questions, share stories or just catch up with Hatala. Others took photos of the work in progress as souvenirs that art doesn’t happen overnight.
The mural will be finished next week and the drudgery of the creative work entrusted to it will be part of the scene and will be visible only to those who saw it while Hatala was working on it.
What will be etched in the minds of the public and in future snapshots will be the spirit of the illustration that endows the space.
It won’t take long for the public mind to embrace it, and before long it will become a site to behold, a talking point, and ultimately part of the city’s cultural scene. Then it will be there for residents and visitors, not as a pillar of history, but as an interpretive throwback to the city’s rich past.
Artistically, it will pay homage to the ongoing changes that have taken place in the park surrounding it, with a decorative railway path running alongside the Stock Exchange building where farmers once brought their produce to be weighed and transported. The modern shelter nearby lends visibility to the space and speaks to the town’s recreational potential by the river.
The mural depicts a stopped train, with the engineer standing outside, similar to a historical image Hatala found online, and two men, presumably the driver and brakeman, standing in front of the sign for Rock Island .
A previous report by Waverly Newspapers indicates that Waverly’s Rock Island Depot was built in town from 1909 to 1910, under the supervision of George M. Graham, head of the Suspension Steel Construction Company in Chicago, according to a Waverly Historic Register request from February 2021. .
The old Rock Island Railroad Depot still stands today as the home of 4 Queens Dairy Cream.
Watching Hatala at work is an experience to savor. Discreet and affable, he transports the papers for the mural in the back of his truck, as well as the paint and his brushes.
He does not refuse a conversation with a passerby and is not afraid of being interrupted. He then returns to the wall to add blue paint to the conductor’s pants. Now that the mural is almost done, the idea is clear, but some of the details, like the smoke at the top and the steam at the bottom, will be some of the more complex elements to create.
Hatala makes it sound easy and joking about figuring it out as he goes, but a lot of specific research and a lifetime of experience of creative endeavors go into what audiences would finally see.
It’s one of dozens of murals and public artworks Hatala has created within a 60-mile radius.
It’s his third big in town.
At the Fire Station Museum, a notable patriotic piece on the back interior wall tells the story of the Waverly Fire Department and last year Hatala completed the mural on the wall of the Mixing Bowl Bakery on Main Street.
Today, it would be hard to imagine the museum or bakery wall without the cheerful colors and imaginative images that tell the story of Waverly.
Earlier this month, Hatala completed a mural in Sumner, about eight times larger than the one he is working on in Waverly.
The Sumner Mural is now the talk and pride of the town. It is painted on the brick wall of City Hall and the Police Department and features a farm scene with the word Sumner. Inside each letter, a different landmark of the city, such as the clock tower or the city swimming pool, is displayed.
“I love working on brick,” Hatala said. “I like its texture.”
Hatala’s talent as a commercial artist, graphic designer and illustrator was nurtured by an Applied Arts degree from Hawkeye Tech, now Hawkeye Community College, which he earned in 1976.
Her first job at Gloria Aleff & Associates Advertising Agency in Waverly set the tone for the rest of her life. He worked at the agency, then located at 110 ½ East Bremer Ave., from 1976 to 1985.
“I learned a lot in graphic design,” he said, reflecting on the creative path he’s taken since then.
That job offer turned the Ford Madison native into a Waverly stalwart.
“It’s my home now,” Hatala said.
After an 11-year stint at Hellman & Associates, a nationally renowned illustration studio, Hatala decided to strike out on her own. In 1996, he became the owner of Hatala Illustration, a business he ran from a studio adjacent to his home.
Over the next 27 years, he created commercial illustrations, architectural renderings, nostalgic Americana scenes, and puzzles, among other things.
The mural on the Exchange Building is one of his legacy pieces.
When asked when and where he would sign the piece, he recalls his granddaughter telling him that if she was the artist, one of his first tasks for her would be to find where to sign the mural. . But Hatala is of a different opinion.
“I never think about it until the end,” he laughs.
Robert Lynch contributed to this story.