Muralists selected for Quad Cities’ Arts Alley in Rock Island

The walls in Arts Alley are getting primed this week for one of the largest public art projects in Rock Island’s history. The Rock Island Downtown Alliance, City of Rock Island and Quad City Arts are excited to announce artists Atlanta Dawn of the Quad Cities and Nicole Salgar of Miami were selected for this project. They will produce two large-scale murals on the upper-story walls of the public pedestrian space at 1719 2nd Avenue. The murals play a pivotal role in the renovation of Arts Alley, part of the larger $8.7 million Rebuild Downtown project.

“We are thrilled to have artists Atlanta Dawn and Nicole Salgar, chosen with valuable input from the community, begin work on two new murals for Arts Alley,” said Kevin Maynard, Executive Director of Quad City Arts. “This project stands as a testament to our commitment to celebrating public art and its power to transform spaces into vibrant, engaging environments. We look forward to seeing these murals become a lasting symbol of our community’s identity and pride.”

Public input guided the muralist and design selection process from beginning to end, culminating with a community placemaking event at downtown café Rozz-Tox and a City of Rock Island Arts & Beautification Commission meeting.

“After a public viewing of the 10 finalists at Rozz-Tox on May 8, the Rock Island Arts & Beautification Commission agreed with the community’s selection of artists Atlanta Dawn and Nicole Salgar,” said Amber Williams, Chair of the Commission. “Although different in style and execution, it is difficult to imagine two murals more suited to be on display near each other – remarkably with no collaboration between artists. As an artist, both of these designs provide an intense sense of inspiration, akin to childlike wonder. I believe they will provide the same awe and enthusiasm for others as we welcome them to the exciting renovations of Arts Alley.”

Atlanta Dawn’s submission, titled “Luminary Voyage,” included this statement: “There is a knowing within. Listen, a wisdom born of both light and shadow. Press onward amid the darkness for the light is not external, but inside you.”

Nicole Salgar shared this about her piece: “I wanted to create a design that seamlessly blends elements celebrating local biodiversity and heritage. Central to this vision is a vibrant portrayal of the native finch amidst lush iris flowers in the early evening. The Victorian architecture, paying homage to the city’s heritage, evokes nostalgia and community pride. Intricate architectural details of the house honors the city’s architectural legacy, fostering a profound sense of connection within the community.”

Owners of the two neighboring buildings receiving the murals also played an active role in the review process before approving the final artists and designs.

“As a long-time business and property owner in downtown Rock Island, I am very excited to see the new large scale public art in Arts Alley about to become a reality,” said Jeff Dismer, Principal, Studio 483 Architects. “I feel the community has selected two unique and vibrant murals with creative reflections of nature and historic heritage that will make this a very dynamic engaging public space for our downtown.”

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.

“While the bulk of work currently happening downtown is underground and hard to see, the murals in Arts Alley will provide a very visible burst of color and vibrancy to the gateway between our riverfront and central business district,” said Jack Cullen, Executive Director of the Rock Island Downtown Alliance. “We are eager to bring the plans for Arts Alley to life and make this a true tourist attraction for Rock Island, the Quad Cities and the state of Illinois.”

Visitors to the space are encouraged to share posts on social media using the hashtag, #ArtsAlleyQC.

Timeline for mural completion

5/31: Final priming of walls

6/3: Atlanta Dawn begins painting

6/10: Nicole Salgar begins painting

6/21: Murals complete with anti-vandalism coat

6/24: Other improvements to Arts Alley begin

All dates are subject to change, pending weather conditions.