Community called to weigh in on Arts Alley mural designs

Vibrant designs proposed for two large-scale wall murals in Rock Island’s Arts Alley will be unveiled next week, and the community is invited to participate in the final selection process.

The art will be displayed gallery-style for a public event 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, at Rozz-Tox, 2108 3rd Ave., Rock Island. Attendees will have the opportunity to “tag” their favorite designs and engage in conversation. Dennis Hockaday of neighboring downtown business, Ragged Records & Music will be spinning records for the event and food and drinks will be available for purchase from the café.

“This is a great opportunity for our community to help shape the future look and feel of downtown,” said Jack Cullen, Executive Director of the Rock Island Downtown Alliance. “We’re proud to host this event at Rozz-Tox in partnership with Quad City Arts and the City of Rock Island, and we hope the community is just as excited about this level of investment in such a unique shared space.”

Arts Alley, a pedestrian gateway connecting the riverfront and downtown business district in the 1700 block of 2nd Avenue, is one of the public spaces undergoing a transformation as part of the City’s $8,7 million Rebuild Downtown Rock Island project. Combined, the two murals spanning 4,000 square feet of wall space, account for one of the largest public art projects in Rock Island’s history.

More than 400 artists responded to a Request for Qualifications issued by Quad City Arts in January. By March, the list was narrowed to about 130 artists based on qualifications. The Downtown Alliance and Quad City Arts worked closely with building owners in Arts Alley, downtown stakeholders and the City’s Arts & Beautification Commission to reach consensus around the 10 finalists, who later submitted proposals for the walls.

“The selection process for the Arts Alley murals was exceptionally challenging for the Rock Island Arts and Beautification Commission and the Rock Island Downtown Alliance due to the outstanding caliber of the artist submissions,” said Kevin Maynard of Quad City Arts. “These artists have extensive experience, having created murals nationally and internationally. Public art should reflect the community that it is in, and to do that we need our community to come out and be involved in this process.”

Input gathered at the upcoming event will aid the final selection process. Data will be reviewed at a special Arts & Beautification Commission meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at Rock Island City Hall, and the final two artists or artist teams will be notified May 10.

Other planned improvements to Arts Alley this spring and summer include a decorative walkway, lighting and signage; space for social gatherings and performances; space for seasonal pop-up shop programs; and additional art installations. The total budget for the improvements to Arts Alley is just over $534,000, with half of the project being funded by a $267,000 State of Illinois Tourism Attractions grant. The City of Rock Island is primarily funding the remaining costs with a combination of Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District funds and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.