The cultural life of the Quad-Cities is lifted in part by public art that is on permanent and temporary display throughout Davenport, Bettendorf, and Rock Island, thanks to Quad City Arts’ public sculpture program.
In June, six public sculptures in Bettendorf and four in Rock Island were replaced with new ones, featuring colorful, creative and whimsical work from artists throughout the Midwest. Each city chose to keep one sculpture from last year’s selection for another year.
Quad City Arts has facilitated the leasing and installation of public sculpture in the area since 2002, starting with the city of Davenport – which now has nine outdoor sculptures on permanent display (find the locations on our website under Public Sculpture Program). The city of Rock Island has participated in the program every year since 2007 and Bettendorf, since 2008.
For the first time, Renew Moline will join the effort, in sponsoring sculptures.
Arriving on the riverfront near 15th Street this week will be “Swans On the Marsh” by V. Skip Willits of Camanche, Iowa. “I was walking along the shore of a marsh by the river one day and spied three swans on the water. This is my rendition of that scene,” the sculptor said.
Arriving June 29 outside of the new Kone building near Bass Street Landing in Moline will be “Metamorphosis” by Hilde DeBruyne of Cumming, Iowa. She describes her piece as an “organic, contemporary, streamlined sculpture in steel. It refers to the Metamorphosis of butterflies.
“Butterflies are a symbol of transformation, because of their impressive process of metamorphosis,” she said. “By observing butterflies, we can relate to our own lives: Each of us transforms through multiple stages in our life: moments of growing pains, times of hunger and vulnerability followed by moments of tremendous energy, growth, wonder and amazement.”
All of the sculptures are for sale and can be purchased by individuals, businesses or the city for permanent installation after June of the following year.
“When people see art in a community, they know that the city leaders value culture and they take pride in their community,” Dawn Wohlford-Metallo, Quad City Arts’ visual arts director, said. “When sculpture is around, or murals, or other kids of amenities, people feel good about their surroundings and then they want to live there."
And the sculptures are very popular sites for people to take selfies, she noted.
The sculptures are leased and on public display for a one-year period (each artist gets a $1,200 stipend), at which point they may be purchased for permanent installation or be replaced with new sculpture. In 2019, we coordinated the installation of 12 sculptures with the financial support of Rock Island and Bettendorf, Rock Island Parks & Recreation, Bettendorf Library Foundation and Ascentra Credit Union, showing their commitment to the cultural and artistic vitality of our community.
Courtney Lyon of Ballet Quad Cities loves “Growing Up” – at the foot of the Centennial Bridge in Rock Island, created by Ben Pierce, 36, of Cape Girardeau. Mo. It was installed at the visitor’s center in Rock Island last year and will remain for another year.
“I see it every day when I drive into Rock Island for work,” said Lyon, artistic director of the ballet company. “Even though my mind is typically already busy with what will be happening during the day, I always notice the sculpture. I instantly recognize that my car is crossing an area where civilization abruptly meets nature. It snaps me out of my ‘work’ brain and it makes me blink and look around and come into the present.
“The sculpture stands strong and tall, circles filled with bricks, triangles filled with blue. I think about the artist and their choice of putting the blue water in the angular container, and the red bricks in the smooth container,” she said. “ It seems so simple that by switching what seems natural, something that could have been normal and expected becomes unique and unforgettable. Would I have thought to do that?
“I realize that I just crossed over the Mighty Mississippi. Even though we built a bridge to cross it, and flood walls to protect us, the river is far more powerful than we are,” Lyon said.
“Delightfully, the blue of the sculpture pops! Sometimes it is the brightest thing around as I come off the bridge if the skies are grey, the water flat, the trees bare.”
The sculpture pays homage to Pierce’s family history and lineage of bricklayers.
“My father is a 3rd-generation bricklayer and I spent a lot of time as a kid on the jobsite,” he recalled. “I would play in sand piles that were used to mix with the Portland cement and water to make the mortar. I remember climbing up on the scaffolding and watching my dad as he laid bricks. Using or mimicking a plant-like form, to show growth.
“Placing the bricks inside a circular shape on a form that is largely angular highlights the brick to showcase their value. As the form grows, the bricks are an integral part -- just like in my own growth and childhood,” Pierce said.
While there are very few Q-C artists that do large sculptures, one is featured this year – Moline’s David Zahn, whose “Time Passes” is at Build to Suit on Bettendorf’s State Street, near the Waterfront Convention Center.
“The human form has always been a major element in my work,” he said. “Integrating images of people and blending them with abstract forms has been a long-lasting direction in my art. I strive to create a feeling of timelessness and a strong emotional element in each piece.”
A 57-year-old native of Norridge, Ill. (outside Chicago), Zahn has taught pottery and sculpture at Moline High School, and has made work that is nationally known and collected publicly and privately. He’s had bronze sculptures commissioned by Deere & Company, Scott County and the North Scott School District.
His sculptures include a large bronze of John Deere -- behind John Deere Seeding in Moline, near the entrance to Sylvan Island Park -- done in 2012 to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the company; and bronzes in front of the Scott County Administration Building in Davenport and North Scott High School and Junior High in Eldridge, Iowa.
“Creating a realistic portrait, or a one-of-a-kind artwork for a specific purpose is always an exciting endeavor for me,” Zahn said on his website, dzahnsculpture.com. “I also like to have a bit of mystery in my art, so don’t be surprised if you can’t figure out exactly what is going on. My work is imaginative, thought provoking, and surrealistic at times, so the viewer has to make some of their own conclusions.”
Near Zahn’s work, on the plaza at the Waterfront Convention Center (2021 State St.), you can see “Talk, Talk, Smile” by Leslie Bruning of Omaha, Neb.
The artist described it as a conversation that determines quality of life on a neighborhood street. Neighbors need to converse with each other, and they can be most effective if they do it with a smile on their face.
The perforated steel creates a translucent quality that brings the faces and words in and out of focus and allows the viewers to see each other through the sculpture. This encourages a sense of shared space on the street. The meaning of this sculpture has never been more important.
Other Bettendorf pieces include:
Rock Island public art includes:
Hampton Cranes of Bettendorf donated its time and services to install the public sculptures again, which can cost up to $30,000 each to purchase.
This year’s funders for the program are the City of Bettendorf, Bettendorf Library Foundation, City of Rock Island, Rock Island Parks and Recreation, and Renew Moline. The next call for entries from artists will be February 2021.
Quad City Arts has also launched a new video segment called "7 WITH KEVIN LIVE!", where the director, Kevin Maynard, interviews a variety of artists that are in some way connected to Quad City Arts.
Their latest episode highlights two sculpture artists whose work has been installed in the Quad Cities. Mr. Maynard also mentioned the ability to view all sculpture on their website along with driving directions on their Public Sculpture Program webpage.