The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Landscape artist Easker a part of new courthouse, but he also created city flag — in 1962

In federal courthouse, Fred Easker on February 12, 2009 at 11:07 am

Fred Easker paints pretty landscapes of Eastern Iowa with a sufficient gift that the federal government has hired him to paint a landscape for the new federal courthouse. SEE for yourself at http://www.easkerart.com/fred.asp

Easker, 64, of Cedar Rapids, is featured on the Thursday front page of The Gazette, which is something of a work of art in itself. It is, really.  SEE http://www.gazetteonline.com/Assets/images/rick_frontpage.jpg

What Easker failed to reveal in an interview for The Gazette story is something Robert M.L. Johnson – who served as Cedar Rapids mayor from 1962 through 1967 — phoned about Thursday morning.

Johnson reports that as mayor he held a contest to create a Cedar Rapids flag. And Fred Easker, then a Jefferson High School student, won.

“Oh yeh,” Johnson said, assuring that the flag was and is a thing of beauty. “It told the story of Cedar Rapids. Factories. The river running right through the middle of it.”

Johnson said he always flew three flags outside of City Hall: the American flag, the state flag and the city flag created by Easker.

Over time, other mayors were less enamored with the city flag, he said.

Johnson said he’s also proud that he initiated the charcoal portraits of the city’s mayors that now hang outside the council chambers in the empty, flood-damaged City Hall. He also held a contest for a city song.

He said the city band always used to play the song at the end of their concerts, but then he said that gave way over the years.

Johnson said he asked the band why it stopped playing the song, and he said
he was told, “The minute we start to play it people start to leave.”

Easker on Thursday chuckled about winning the flag contest as a senior at Jefferson High School. Back then, he had to plead with a school counselor to let him take an art course, he said.

At the same time, Easker said winning the contest steered him into art and away from a history major in college.

He laughed again Thursday recalling a news story back in 2004 that ranked 150 city flags across the country. Cedar Rapids’ ranked 142nd.

“I was a senior in high school with no art training,” Easker said. 

He said he asked recent Mayor Lee Clancey to consider a new contest to create a new flag. But the existing one apparently is just fine. SEE  http://www.gazetteonline.com/Assets/images/PHOT0013830e.jpg 

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