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Art in Plain Sight: The Col Ballroom PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 10:55

The current sign at the Col. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The Col Ballroom, at 1012 West Fourth Street in Davenport, is 100 years old this year. No other large ballroom in Iowa has reached a century of continuous operation. For that matter, neither has any ballroom in Chicago.

During the past century, the sign in front of the Col has been changed several times. The installation of a neon sign during the Jazz Age signaled a change in the cultural role of the ballroom. It was replaced when rock ’n’ roll became king, re-made when rock went psychedelic, and duplicated when there wasn’t a prevalent new direction in popular music.

Each sign had its own aesthetic, stylistically shaped by its era. Each is interesting in and of itself. However, they are all the more fascinating when we see them as a reflection of the sweep of changes in popular culture throughout the century.

 
Art in Plain Sight: Davenport’s Skybridge PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Saturday, 11 January 2014 05:10

Photo by Bruce Walters

Davenport’s Skybridge is meant to be spectacular. Waves of color from 8,036 LED lights race the length of its 575-foot corridor at night. Brightly lit masts and tension rods angle upward and out, towering 100 feet over the River Drive traffic below.

The bridge’s most successful feature, however, is its outstanding panoramic view of the river and the surrounding cityscape.

 
Art in Plain Sight: “The Gossips” PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 21 November 2013 10:02

Photo by Bruce Walters

In rapt conversation, two women sit huddled on a bench in downtown Davenport. One draws back with her mouth comically agape, stunned by the words being spoken by the other.

The sculpture of these women is located on the north side of Second Street between Main and Brady. It’s a wonder that its creator, B. Thomas Lytle, could capture this interaction with hammered and welded Cor-ten steel.

 
Art for the Quick and the Dead: Exploring the Sculptures of Quad Cities Cemeteries PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Thursday, 03 October 2013 05:39

Photo by Bruce Walters

To enter Oakdale Memorial Gardens, at 2501 Eastern Avenue in Davenport, one passes through twin stone pillars that stand 12 feet tall. The Art Nouveau side gates, made of patterned iron bars and a metal plate with an oak-leaf design at its center, are both beautiful and imposing, solemnly announcing the dignified purpose of the site within. Passing between the center pillars, we feel we’re leaving the commonplace behind.

Through this passage – constructed circa 1897 – is a refuge from the fast-paced world. Arranged on the park-like expanse of lawn that stretches over acres of gently rolling hills, with massive oak trees and flowering gardens, are thousands of graves – and also many sculptures .

Oakdale, Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island, Riverside Cemetery in Moline, and the Mount Calvary and Pine Hill cemeteries in Davenport were the first garden cemeteries in the Quad Cities. Established in the 1850s, they also served as the first public parks in the area, providing a place for the general public to enjoy magnificent sculptures and garden settings previously available only to the wealthy.

(Our botanical parks weren’t developed until some three decades later, such as Vander Veer Botanical Park in Davenport in 1885; it was among the first botanical gardens west of the Mississippi.)

The cemetery sculptures in this article were selected, in part, because of the artists’ skill but – more importantly – for the artworks’ capacity to communicate concepts and emotions. These works are examples of what funerary art can accomplish within a clearly circumscribed purpose – to help the living celebrate, remember, and mourn the dead.

For the most part, these sculptures are not creative, personal expressions of the artist. Yet they are not uniform in the feelings they convey. Some are comforting; others are stark reminders that life is brief. Some are massive and exotic, others humble and typical but no less evocative.

 
Art in Plain Sight: LeClaire Park Bandshell and Bix Sculpture PDF Print E-mail
Art - Feature Stories
Written by Bruce Walters   
Friday, 23 August 2013 05:29

Photo by Bruce Walters

Fifty years ago – on August 23, 1963 – approximately 2,000 people gathered at the LeClaire Park bandshell for a civil-rights rally that served as a warm-up for the national March on Washington. Twenty-eight local delegates who would participate in the historic march were introduced. They would hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech in the nation’s capital five days later.

This was by no means the only rally at the bandshell. George W. Bush, for example, gave a campaign speech on its stage in 2004. Barack Obama spoke there three years later.

The bandshell has also served as center stage for numerous annual events –including the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, River Roots Live, the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival, and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s Riverfront Pops concert. Past performers on the stage include Greg Brown, Albert Collins, Blue Öyster Cult, Buddy Guy, Little Feat, Los Lobos, The Marshall Tucker Band, and – this past weekend – the Wallflowers.

The bandshell’s official name is the W.D. Petersen Memorial Music Pavilion. It was built in 1924 as a memorial to his daughter Wilma, who had died the previous year at the age of 38. Petersen paid for the pavilion’s construction himself.

 
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