Native Pella artist paints mural to celebrate Dutch heritage

Ryan Bentzinger continues to make progress on the mural in the Oost Port Alley. Photo by Emily Hawk | Pella Chronicle

Native Pella artist Ryan Bentzinger is commemorating the history and local values of Pella, one can of spray paint at a time.

In 2018, Bentzinger and Lorinda Bradley initiated conversations to create a mural in their hometown that would combine references to the city’s Dutch heritage and Bentzinger’s imaginative, colorful landscapes.

Following the landscape traditions popular in the Netherlands from the 17th century onward, the mural includes an expansive sky, a cityscape in the distance, windmills, grazing pastures and flower fields in the foreground.

“Dutch renaissance landscape isn’t typically in my repertoire, but I think it’s a really good idea for Pella,” said Bentzinger. “A mural can really bring a certain energy to a community.”

The cityscape will represent a contemporary Pella with its classical architecture, iconic businesses and churches easily identifiable on the horizon. Additionally, Bentzinger will incorporate tulip fields as a nod to the city’s annual Tulip Time Festival. His artistic style often utilizes bright colors and floral motifs.

“I would describe my artistic style as chaotic, imaginative and narrative,” said Bentzinger. “This is a little calmer for me, but even so, it’s fun to get the spray paint out … I don’t try to keep myself in boxes and always try to explore. Something I always value in my artwork is spontaneity and imagination.”

In’t Veld’s Meat Market and Opa’s Deli became a natural home for the mural for multiple reasons. Owners Jerry and Shaughn Roorda (Bradley’s parents) are invested in the revitalization of the city’s streetscape, and the business represents vital aspects of the Dutch economy, including cheese distribution and close connections with local farmers. The mural, located on the south side of the building, will also coincide with the city’s plans to renovate the Oost Port Alley.

Bentzinger stated his biggest challenge has been judging the length of the alley compared to his original sketch. However, Bentzinger said the process has been fairly smooth.

“They’ve been some of the best clients I’ve had as far as letting me do my own thing,” said Bentzinger. “They primed the wall for me, they feed me lunch … it’s been so great being back in my hometown.”

Bentzinger is a 2007 Pella High School graduate and a teaching artist based out of Iowa City. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art with Honors in Education from the University of Iowa in 2011. Bentzinger’s artwork has been exhibited internationally, and acquired for the permanent collections of the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art in Chile; the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art; the University Museums of Iowa State University and Arnoldsche Art Publishers in Germany.