Newest Dubuque mural pays homage to late Supreme Court justice


Artist Luis Valle works Thursday on a mural at the corner of 12th and Jackson streets in Dubuque honoring late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering


Sam Mulgrew


Artist Luis Valle works on a mural at the corner of 12th Street and Jackson Street in Dubuque on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. The mural is a portrait honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering


Artist Luis Valle works Thursday on a mural at the corner of 12th and Jackson streets in Dubuque honoring late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering


Artist Luis Valle works Thursday on a mural at the corner of 12th and Jackson streets in Dubuque honoring late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. PHOTO CREDIT: Dave Kettering

A likeness of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg looked down on East 12th Street in Dubuque on Thursday.

Artist Luis Valle sprayed paint onto the wall to fill in the details of Ginsburg’s head, which was surrounded by a red circle that will be filled in with a bright, golden halo.

“I want women out there to be inspired by a strong woman who made it all the way to the Supreme Court,” Valle said. “There’s strong women out there fighting for women’s rights, and hopefully, she was an inspiration.”

The mural is the newest to rise in Dubuque through the efforts of Voices Productions, which has commissioned dozens of pieces around the city in recent years and whose leaders are making plans for potentially two more yet this year.

“I think the messaging that we’re doing is positive,” said Sam Mulgrew, mural project director for the group. “I think that what we’re trying to do is on the right side of history. When you take a space and invest it with meaning, it becomes a place, and murals do that.”

Mulgrew said the idea to pay homage to Ginsburg through a mural — now being installed near the intersection of East 12th and Jackson streets — was born soon after she died last month.

Some of Voices Productions’ last murals of the year aim to put a focus on issues that officials think are relevant to U.S. democracy, so Ginsburg seemed like a perfect fit given her work to advocate for women’s rights, Mulgrew said.

“It’s particularly relevant, not just because of her death, but our understanding of the Supreme Court and what type of people are appointed to it,” he said. “And now that the vacancy is open and an election is coming up, it’s just a good time to reflect on what we want as a country.”

Valle is painting an image of Ginsburg in her black robe and lace collar, with a halo to pay homage to both her death and her iconic cultural status.

Valle said he grew up in a home full of women and knows both the power and compassion they have.

“I think it’s time for us to give women a shot and to hear their voice,” he said.

The Ginsburg mural joins five more that have been installed in Dubuque so far in 2020. Mulgrew said Voices Productions officials still are finalizing the details of future murals but potentially would like to do two more this year.

He said he didn’t want to give too much information about future murals, noting that the projects are still in the works and that the COVID-19 pandemic could complicate plans.

However, both murals would be downtown — one would potentially have an artwork theme, and the other might pay homage to local “growing culture,” as exemplified through Dubuque Farmers Market, urban gardeners or agriculturalists.

So far, Voices Productions efforts have led to the installation of about 45 murals in Dubuque and Dubuque County.

Mulgrew said he is not currently planning to add any more murals to Dubuque next year, though it is possible some could go up if people come to Voices Productions asking for help.

However, the group likely won’t be aggressive in continuing its mural initiative next year.

“Every little movement has to have a beginning and an end,” Mulgrew said. “Our hope was to activate the creative class and give them the tools and the confidence to be able to do that, and that’s happening now, so Voices is a less-needed facilitator to go out and pull the pieces together.”

He said there was possibly a next phase to the group’s efforts. He said he was reluctant to say much, but it would involve more art in the public domain and would be “probably not two-dimensional.”

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