As part of the construction of Textile Brewing Company’s Corner Taproom on Main Street in Cascade, a young artist and former employee of the brewery in Dyersville was commissioned to help give the room a unique local identity.
The artist, Ashley Althoff, said, “They said they needed something to make it unique with some artwork, and they knew I was into anything with art, so they just let me have it. They said, ‘This is the wall, do whatever you want to it’.”
Althoff grew up near Guttenberg and attended Upper Iowa University in Fayette where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in studio art and a certificate in arts administration. Working several different part-time jobs, she landed a position with the Textile Brewing Company in Dyersville.
“I started working there in August 2019,” said Althoff. “I worked part-time and had some other side jobs too, but then last May I became the full-time manager of the brewery. That’s how I know the owner and current manager so well now. I dove more into my artist career lately, so they asked me to do this mural. I’ve always been doing design work and stuff on the side for people, and I was just ready to dive into that full time.”
Through all her jobs, Althoff worked on many art projects on the side before deciding to make it her full career.
“I just started my own LLC and my own business in the middle of this past December,” she said. “I had this awakening or epiphany that I was ready. I was doing all this stuff on the side that I love doing, but I was doing it for very little or for free. That is always good, but after a while, I thought, ‘I can definitely make a living off this.’ I’ve had people coming to me constantly about websites, design work and social media marketing. I don’t just take on any project. I like ones with businesses that have missions that I really agree with and am passionate about. It inspires me more to work with them. I’ll work in anything if I see a vision towards it and it’s something that’s helping the community bring people together.”
While centralized in the theme and purpose of community, Althoff’s artistic projects span a wide variety of mediums and styles.
“When I was going to college, I was very into sculpture. I like doing things that are more sustainable and resilient and was using materials that are recycled or things I could reuse. I also liked to use concrete and clay. That’s what I was working on in college. The whole time, I’ve mostly been doing graphic design and a bit of painting here and there. I noticed that painting seems to always come back into my life. This mural was a lot of fun and I’m open to taking commissions for more large murals.”
Althoff says that the communal nature of the Taproom strongly appeals to her love of using her art to bring communities together.
“I completely support the brewery and Corner Taproom because there’s something really cool about what craft beer does,” she said. “When people get in that environment, it’s really cool because there’s usually more of an eclectic or unique style in breweries or taprooms which draws people in. It’s nice to see people relaxing and enjoying themselves when they get there, and it’s not just beer from anywhere, it’s beer that’s local. That’s why I love doing the taproom mural. It’s something that stands out in there and makes it unique while showing the history of Cascade. It’s a conversation piece, something for them to look at and talk about while they’re enjoying themselves.”
To create the mural itself, Althoff borrowed an old illustration of Cascade’s past from a friend to use as her inspiration, as historical photos were hard for her to find.
“She let me borrow it,” said Althoff, “and I scanned it into my computer and put it into my design program. I edited it so it was more simplified and one big silhouette. Then I got a picture of the wall so I could mess around with the dimensions and save it in the right format. I knew it was going to be really large-scale, so I borrowed a projector to put it on the wall. I did it in sections since it was so big and the projector would only project so much. I used a darker paint as I went over everything, and now I’m going back in and adding some stuff without the projector.”
Currently working on some of the finishing touches for the mural, Althoff is looking forward to her next two mural projects, one in the Dyersville coffee shop and one in South Carolina over the summer.