When employees of the Facebook data center in Papillion go to work each day, they’ll be greeted by a colorful 76-foot mural made by a Nebraskan, for Nebraskans.
Created by Omaha native Justin Queal, the mural incorporates themes and images familiar to locals — like a monarch butterfly akin to the ones emblazoned on Papillion’s water towers and an overhead view of crop fields — all set against a backdrop heavy with rich, Husker red.
“You want to tell some of the history of the place,” Queal, 42, said of how he approached designing the mural.
Facebook officials say the mural, located in an administrative building at the 144-acre site on the northwest corner of Highway 50 and Capehart Road, helps connect Papillion’s roots with those of one of the biggest tech companies in the world.
“With (Facebook’s) big, complicated, global mission of connecting the world, the rubber hits the road at the local level,” said Matt Sexton, community development manager for Facebook. “We live and work locally.”
So Facebook found a local artist to help tell the local story. Queal grew up in the Ponca Hills area and spent two years at Creighton Prep and two years at Omaha North. His public art career took off while he was living in Phoenix, but in 2017, he came back to the Good Life.
Last summer, Facebook asked if he would lend his talents to the data center.
“In a way, (Facebook is) doing a beautiful thing for their community because they’re recognizing local talent, and then, just by who they are, they’re going to naturally elevate that local talent,” Queal said. “In return, they’re getting an authentic local story for their (data center).”
The mural mixes rural elements with technological ones: circuitry appears to make up many of the images, and a painting of a wind farm nods to Facebook’s focus on clean energy.
The Papillion facility is the third of Facebook’s data centers that will feature art by Queal. He created a mural for the center in Los Lunas, New Mexico, and will soon travel to New Albany, Ohio, to complete one.
Queal was the artist behind “Home Run,” a baseball-themed mural on the west side of the J.F. Bloom & Co. building near 17th and Cuming Streets. Sculptures at Hotel Deco at 15th and Harney Streets were the result of his artistic eye.
The first Facebook data center in Papillion is expected to go online in 2020. An expansion to the project is meant to launch in 2023.