Artist restores Mason City opera house mural

MASON CITY – A blue sky with white clouds and pink and purple flowers will greet future tenants of apartments above Central Park Dentistry in the Parker Opera House. The 130-year-old mural is located in a dome on the third floor of the building. It was recently restored by Mason City artist Jan Kostka. “I’m very pleased,” she told the Globe Gazette. “It will make for a feeling of ethereal – looking out on a nice day in Iowa.” The second and third floors of the building are being remodeled into 13 apartments. When the project started, owner Jay Lala said he knew the mural had to be restored. “It’s unbelievable; just gorgeous,” Lala said. “She basically replicated it. It’s actually the only remaining remnant of the opera house.”

Kostka said she put in more than 100 hours on the project working from old photographs and what was left of the heavily damaged painting.

“It was a mess, but not hopeless,” she said. “I saw the potential in it.”

Some of the bouquets of flowers were in relatively good condition but one of the four was completely missing.

“It was a gaping hole,” Kostka said. “I had to guess.”

She also had to guess on colors. Most of the original was yellowed from water damage, tobacco smoke and aging.

The photos were also only helpful to a certain point because they only went back so far. Lala said there are no known existing photos of the inside of the Parker Opera House. It’s also unknown who the mural artist was.

“I had to reconstruct what I thought might have been there,” Kostka said.

The fact that it was a dome also made for an interesting experience. Kostka had to use scaffolding and a harness.

“When I was painting I felt very much surrounded by the artist’s spirit,” said Kostka, noting that she’s done many murals over the years, but usually on flat surfaces. “It was different being surrounded by someone else’s artwork.”