Mural on south side of Laborspace, 311 21st St., Rock Island

From public sculpture to vibrant murals, the QC’s creative current comes alive

QC, that’s where we display our region’s culture and history, quirky originality and creativity within a gallery of sidewalks, alleys and parks. QC, that’s where public art reflects our values, illustrated within vibrant murals and wood and metal sculptures that draw visitors and residents to explore areas once dormant, now fully alive. It is where partnerships and regional artists elevate placemaking, QC identity and pride. And it is where we are striving to incorporate so much more.

This summer, through the Quad City Arts’ Public Sculpture Program and Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship Program, our region celebrated 16 new installations across our family of communities. The new sculptures and murals are displayed in Bettendorf, Davenport, Moline and Rock Island. And they are in addition to the collection of sculptures and numerous murals already on public display throughout our region.

For more than 20 years, Quad City Arts has facilitated the selection and display of public sculpture for our cities, business and organizations; facilitating murals and street paintings by its Metro Arts student apprentices; and providing art programming and events that allow us to express and share the QC’s creative current with the world.

“Public art is one of the most important aspects in a community and often gets overlooked. Studies clearly show It drives tourism, increases civic pride and showcases our community’s values,” said Kevin Maynard, Executive Director, Quad City Arts.

Downtown Rock Island recognizes and values the impact the arts have on our region and in the work we do. Rock Island has a rich history of arts and cultural programming and events, especially in downtown. Last summer, Quad City Arts and Downtown Rock Island launched a mural program with a large-scale piece created by Rock Island teen Riley Jones. It is part of a larger, ongoing revitalization project in the 300 block of 20th Street and the surrounding area.

“It was such a collaborative project, and that’s what made it so successful. When done well, public art and placemaking weave together many different partners, which shows investment and creates a positive win for the entire community,” said Jack Cullen, Director, Downtown Rock Island.

Building on that momentum, the City of Rock Island and Downtown Rock Island applied for, and will be awarded a $267,181 State of Illinois grant to complete the renovation and activation of Arts Alley into a vibrant urban gallery, event venue and family-friendly destination for Quad Citizens and visitors.

Planning is underway. “We are asking community members to provide their thoughts and suggestions on what they would like to see in Arts Alley. We need public input and buy-in to make this a successful project,” Cullen said.

Murals and public sculpture brighten areas that may have been dormant or simply undiscovered. When there are multiple pieces of public art in a walkable area, such as in downtown, it becomes an attraction for residents and tourists. It strengthens our regional identity, sparks investment and drives tourism. “Public attractions draw positive foot traffic, which generates economic activity,” Cullen said. “In addition, public art can lead to the further revitalization of a neighborhood, such as new streetscape improvements, better stewardship of adjacent properties and even new business interests,” he added.

QC’s creative current is showcased in our many theatres and museums, on stages and bandshells,  and in a never-ending stream of programs and events that build on each other. Crowds will be captivated by the skill and flair of professional artists who will transform concrete into canvas at the free, two-day Chalk Art Festival in Rock Island’s Schwiebert Park this weekend. Just two blocks away on Saturday, the Sound Conservatory Music Academy and Shoppe will celebrate its upcoming expansion and move to 1600 2nd Avenue with live outdoor music during an event at the new location. Skeleton Key Art & Antiques is taking advantage of the downtown crowd on Sunday and hosting the Rock Island Artists’ Market, featuring a variety of handcrafted works by regional artists and makers.

QC, that’s where we are proud of the fact that for a region our size, we are way ahead of the curve.

“I encourage everyone to take some time to walk around and look closer at our community,” Maynard said. “Our region is very lucky to have a wealth of art and art amenities. From murals to public sculptures, art programming and cultural events, there are so many things in the QC that you’d be hard pressed to find in other communities of our size, or even larger.”