His earliest training, he admits, was painting graffiti on rail cars in the Cedar Rapids train yard. Back then, it was "a lot of trial and error, seeing ideas on the internet and figuring it out," said mural artist Tim Westrom, a member of the class of 2017 (BFA, integrated studio arts). By his senior year at Cedar Rapids Washington he chose to make a change, and stopped doing his art "that way." He received commissioned jobs for his school and church and didn't return to the rail yard.
Westrom's latest commissioned piece is wrapping up this week: a 35-by-15-foot wall mural in Beyer Hall for recreation services. Equipped with a respirator mask, a few ladders, several dozen cans of premium indoor/outdoor graffiti spray paint and bags of disposable tips, Westrom worked off of a black-and-white sketch as his custom mural blossomed with color and 3D-like depth.
A great fit
Recreation services' Jenny Pollard had a marketing challenge: promote a refurbished fitness room and the strength training classes (think ropes, tires, kettle bells) offered in it. This was not another yoga or Zumba classroom.
After discarding several concepts for a vinyl wall wrap, she happened upon Westrom's flier on the community billboard of a local café.
"I just thought that graffiti art would really suit the urban feel of that room. We made it sort of garage-like, to fit the muscle-building, boot camp-like nature of these fitness classes," Pollard said.
When lots of students return to classes in August, "I'm hoping it knocks their socks off," she said.
Hiring Westrom took more than a phone call and an invitation, Pollard said. On the way to developing a contract with Westrom via procurement services, she also received advice from university museums, Memorial Union employee Letitia Kenemer (who oversees all student art on campus) and environmental health and safety.
Later this summer, Westrom hopes to land in Minneapolis, where he said he most likely won't seek fulltime employment as a graffiti artist. But he won't stop creating murals.
"I hope to keep it as a lighter thing to do on the side," he said. "I still want to enjoy it, without having to depend on it for a living."