Freight House Farmers Market Entrance by Eric Mart. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The entrance to the Freight House Farmers Market - at 421 West River Drive in downtown Davenport - is framed by a 15-foot-tall arched entry. The artist, Eric Mart, also created the gateway to his studio and the Sol-Iron Gallery at 620 West Third Street, just a few blocks away. Although both entires are made entirely of metal and are similar in size, one is welcoming while the other is intimidating. Their impact is shaped, in large part, by their settings and our associations with the objects used.

The brightly painted, freestanding entrance to the Freight House Farmers Market is flanked by a variety of flowering plants. It feels friendly and open. The handmade, cutout letters are playful. In this good-natured context, the tines of the pitchfork at the top of the arch seem to reach upward, almost like the rays of a rising sun. The vintage rotary hoes seem like pinwheels and flowers. Although the archway serves as a business sign, it is also a striking sculptural form.

'Spirit of Place.' Photo by Bruce Walters.

Downtown Moline's industrial past is memorialized by two metal sculptures. One is abstract, the other representational. Both are reminders that the downtown riverfront was once crowded with factories and was at the heart of the "Farm Implement Capital of the World."

Spirit of Place, an imposing 19-foot-tall sculpture, stands between the i wireless Center and the Radisson hotel on a lawn that stretches from River Drive to the riverfront. The iron sculpture consists of a massive wedge seemingly piercing a geometric form atop a conical base. Unless one reads the nearby plaque that states that John Deere's first plow factory was built on the site in 1848, the artwork seem out-of-place in its pleasant surrounding.

Photo by Bruce Walters

On May 30, a 48-foot stretch of panels was set up on a row of easels for Kevin McQueen Lonergan II and Gary White to paint a graffiti-style aerosol-art mural on the Figge Art Museum's plaza. Interrupted daily by rain and wind over the course of the following week, the images and lettering of the mural were developed, painted out, rethought, and painted again in a roller coaster of creativity.

According to Lynn Gingras-Taylor, creative-arts coordinator for the Figge, "Kevin and Gary are recognized internationally as premier artists in their genre. They have been making aerosol art for more than 30 years."

She added: "The mural they have painted at the Figge is a wonderful, colorful mix of a painterly mural style and cutting-edge graffiti fonts. ... [W]e will exhibit it at the museum and will also display it at various Figge family events."

The artists continue to participate in street-art events across the nation; the next is Paint Louis on June 21 in St. Louis.

The Centennial Bridge. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Connecting Davenport and Rock Island, the Centennial Bridge is one of the most beautiful architectural structures in the Quad Cities. Viewed in the daytime, it is a graceful example of modern design. At night, the lights on the bridge's five arches transform it into the river's showpiece.

The bridge was designed by Iowa native Edward Ashton (1903-1985). Its lack of ornamentation is consistent with modern design's dictum that form follows function, yet Ashton stated that he built every bridge with an eye for the visible beauty of the structure. He designed more than 20 bridges - including the Julien Dubuque Bridge in Dubuque, Iowa - but considered the Centennial Bridge his best design.

For the 37th-annual Rock Island Fine Arts Exhibition, the River Cities' Reader invited winning artists - selected by juror Pamela Blotner of California - to write about their work. Their statements follow.

The exhibit runs through April 21 at the Augustana College Art Gallery (inside Centennial Hall, 3703 Seventh Avenue in Rock Island). The gallery is open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays for the duration of the exhibit. A reception will be held on Friday, April 5; awards will be presented at 5:40 p.m.

Pam Echeverria, 'Qutang Gorg'

First Prize: Pam Echeverria (Cedar Falls, Iowa), Qutang Gorge, acrylics.

Teresa Mesich, 'Bird Circus'

Second Prize: Teresa Mesich (Rock Island, Illinois), Bird Circus, acrylic on canvas. "Color, movement, and figure are very important in my work. It all comes together in the idea of 'circus.' Bird Circus evolved over two years and is the first in a planned circus series. I love the swaying shapes of flags and tents, and the criss-crossing ropes that divide space, and the over-the-top colors and costumes of humans and animals.

"Technically, my paintings are additions and subtractions. After much over-painting and wiping out, I study what is left to re-create, all the time thinking 'circus.' People become animals, lions become ruffled birds. Shapes change. Colors change. This evolution leads to constant surprise and discovery, until finally I am satisfied that the work is finished."

Photo by Bruce Walters

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Bix 7 race, a bronze statue of two runners was unveiled in 1999 at the corner of Fourth Street and River Drive in Davenport, in front of the Quad-City Times building. They are atop a five-foot pedestal and base on the eastern front of the Bix 7 Plaza, a circular garden with a walkway and honorary plaques that commemorates the participants and contributors to the annual race. The runners are Bill Rodgers, who won the seven-mile race twice, and Joan Benoit Samuelson, a four-time Bix 7 women's champion. Both athletes represented the U.S. in the Olympics; Samuelson was the gold medalist in the first women's marathon.

The life-size sculpture depicts the runners side-by-side, running nearly in tandem with a similar stride that conveys a sense of equity between the genders in sports. The figures are confident but not triumphant - not stretching their arms out in victory.

Scott County Soldier's Monument. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The Quad Cities have two prominent, highly visible Civil War monuments: the Rock Island County Soldiers' Monument in Rock Island and the Scott County Soldier's Monument in Davenport. Both were completed in the years following the war. It was not until 2003, however, that a monument to the Confederate soldiers who died at the Rock Island Arsenal was built.

The Rock Island County monument, located on the county-courthouse grounds near the Centennial Bridge, was unveiled on April 9, 1869 - the fourth anniversary of General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. The memorial was designed by Leonard Wells Volk (1828-1895), who briefly lived in Rock Island before opening his studio in Chicago in 1857. Volk had the distinction of being the only sculptor to model Abraham Lincoln's features from life; casts of the future president's face and hands were made by Volk in 1860.

The Scott County Soldier's Monument, located in the center of the 1100 block of Main Street near Central High School, was dedicated a dozen years later, on July 4, 1881. Rodney Forsyth Carter (1838-1912) is credited as the monument's designer.

Rouse, by Alison SaarDescribing the creator of the new exhibition STILL ..., on display from February 9 through April 14 at the Figge Art Museum, the venue's executive director Tim Schiffer says that installation artist and sculptor Alison Saar "is kind of pushing the boundaries of what sculpture is." Clearly, Schiffer has a gift for understatement.

In Saar's exhibit piece titled 50 Proof, a vintage washstand sits below a glass bust of a human head, from whose eye sockets flows a continuous stream of black tears. In Black Lightning, a red fluid signifying blood is pumped, through copper tubing, from a bucket on the floor into a pair of boxing gloves on the wall. And in Rouse, a nude figure stands amidst a healthy assemblage of deer antlers, and cradles over her head another nude figure resting in deer antlers.

Well, make that antler sheds, as Saar is quick to say, "No animals were harmed in the making of this piece of art." She laughs. "I don't want PETA in there setting it all on fire."

Tim SchifferIf you're looking for excitement from Tim Schiffer - the Figge Art Museum executive director who started on August 1 - don't talk to him. Instead, just look at the walls.

In our interview on January 25, the soft-spoken Schiffer articulated a modest plan for the Figge, but one that visitors will be able to see for themselves in "clusters" of exhibits that play off each other.

Schiffer's predecessor, Sean O'Harrow - who left after three years at the Figge to head the University of Iowa Museum of Art in November 2010 - believed that the Figge needed to emphasize education above all else (including being an art museum) and that the endowment needed to be built from $5 million to somewhere between $20 million and $50 million.

Because the process of developing a strategic plan for the Figge is just getting underway, the new executive director didn't offer measurable goals in those areas. But Schiffer - who had been executive director of California's Museum of Ventura County since 1999 - has already put his stamp on the museum in a different way.

'St. Anthony Church Pioneers.' Photo by Bruce Walters.

In 1989, Donna Marihart and Ann Opgenorth completed a brazed-copper sculpture for the 150th anniversary of St. Anthony Catholic Church (417 Main Street in Davenport), the oldest standing church building in Iowa. Titled St. Anthony Church Pioneers, the sculpture depicts a group of men and women who contributed to the founding of the church and the City of Davenport. The composition as a whole creates a sense of community.

The figures are gathered behind a portrayal of a seated Antoine LeClaire (1797-1861), who is holding an open plan or map. LeClaire donated the land on which the church was built.

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