Sacred Heart Cathedral. Photo by Bruce Walters.When Sacred Heart Cathedral (at the corner of Iowa and 10th streets in Davenport) was completed in 1891, its bell tower and spire was the tallest structure in the Quad Cities. Soaring majestically above the surrounding trees and neighborhood, its approximate height of 160 feet seemed even greater because of its placement at the top of a steep hill near the crest of the bluff overlooking the Mississippi.

Several blocks to the west, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral (at 121 West 12th Street) had been constructed 18 years before. Although a spire was part of architect's original plans, it was not built because of a lack of funds.

But in 1998, Elizabeth Haines (a member of the Trinity congregation) personally financed the building of a bell tower and spire. In memory of her grandparents - who were charter members of the cathedral - the 131-foot tower was built to its original specifications.

'Family Portrait' (1976)

There is no doubt that Jim Konrad was a brilliant technician.

"He knew more about the nature of artist materials than any other artist in the Quad Cities," said Sherry Maurer, director of the Augustana College Art Museum.

"He was very serious about technique," said his wife Cathy. "And they [his artworks] all have superb technique - color form, composition, things like that." She called him an "artist's artist."

Peter Xiao, a teaching colleague of Konrad's at Augustana for more than two decades, said the artist's work is "perfectly balanced" in terms of color - the dark and light, the chromatic scheme.

The Figge Art Museum, in its description of two Konrad works in its collection, notes his "meticulous craftsmanship and expertise in painting methods and materials."

And in an interview with Bruce Carter earlier this year for the WVIK program Art Talks, Konrad (whom I never met) called himself a teacher of fundamentals. "The more you understand about how to use your materials and how to do it, the more it frees you to be an artist," he said.

'Landscape (Grey Barn)' (1990)

Konrad's technical acumen is plainly evident in the Augustana College Art Museum's current memorial exhibit, celebrating the artist and faculty member who died in May at age 67.

For just one admittedly minor illustration, look at how he painted masking tape in a number of pieces. As Maurer said, "Sometimes ... we've had big debates as to whether it's real tape or not."

But praising somebody's proficiency - even one as fine-tuned as Konrad's - can be a backhanded compliment. And the body of work on display at Augustana College shows an artist fluent in many forms of expression who explored the world in rich and sometimes discomforting ways.

Photo by Bruce Walters.

Hill Arches is a bronze sculpture created in 1974 by one of the most prominent sculptors of the 20th Century, Henry Moore (1898-1986). Moore's monumental works are often based on human forms, but as its title suggests, this piece is meant to be seen in a relationship with its environment.

It is located on a small island in the reflecting pond directly in front of the Deere & Company world-headquarters building in Moline, off John Deere Road a little more than three miles east of Interstate 74.

Viewed from the island, the sculpture is massive. Weighing more than 8,800 pounds, it is 18 feet in length and 12 feet high. But when viewed from a distance, its open spaces give it an unfolding, rising quality. Though large, it appears to float just above the lawn, its base hidden by the grass. This is a fitting paradox for a sculpture that works both with the modern architectural style of the world headquarters and with its surrounding landscape.

Rock Island's Main Library. Photo by Bruce Walters.More than a century separates the opening dates of the most recent and the oldest public-library buildings in the Quad Cities. The differences between these buildings reflect our changing relationship to the environment, and their architecture reflects the evolution of the library from a symbol of culture to a community center.

Davenport's Eastern Avenue branch library (at 6000 Eastern Avenue) opened a year ago on July 10. The horizontal shape of the building and curved entrance relate to its surrounding environment, an open, grassy area of gentle rolling hills. The library has been designated by the U.S. Green Building Council as a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) building. Its environmental features include a geothermal-heating and -cooling system, stormwater-management systems for the roof and parking areas, and energy-efficient lighting. Even the building materials were selected to ensure a healthy environment for the library staff and patrons.

Davenport's Eastern Avenue branch library. Photo by Bruce Walters.

'Lady of Germania,' by Jeff Adams. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Crossing the Centennial Bridge into Iowa, one is welcomed by a larger-than-life sculpture of a woman with outstretched arms. Behind her is an approximately 90-foot-long colonnade with the word "Davenport" in large capital letters across the top. This gateway is at the location of the city's first park, Washington Square, and the statue is based on a figure that once stood there.

'Invitation,' by Gene Horvath. Photo by Bruce Walters.

A 22-foot-high, brightly painted yellow-orange aluminum sculpture was installed at 100 17th Street in Rock Island in 1982. Placed near the entrance of the First National Bank of the Quad Cities, it was created to invite the viewer to join the celebration of the bank's 130th anniversary. The sculpture was titled, appropriately, Invitation.

Though the building is now the Modern Woodmen Bank building, Invitation stands in the same location. Its intense and pure color suggests a brightly colored flower, and the sculpture seems to bloom from its relatively small, rectangular base - almost like a rapidly growing plant in a vase that has become too small.

The uniform color, on the other hand, suggests industrial fluorescent yellow. Though the sculpture's shapes are fluid, even elegant, they are formed from hard-edged, seamless sheets of metal. The sculpture's dynamic arcs seem to describe enormous paths of flight - more akin to a jet fighter than a bird.

War memorial by C.S. Paolo. Photo by Bruce Walters.

A large cast-bronze war memorial has stood in downtown Moline for roughly eight decades. On the sculpture's north side is the imagery one might expect on such a memorial: an idealized soldier holding an American flag under the spread wings of an eagle. Rising through the sculpture's center is a towering flag pole.

This is not the oldest war memorial in the Quad Cities, nor is it the most prominent or grandest. It is, however, a thoughtful - perhaps even profound - sculptural group of five figures.

Matt Kargol, 'Passages.' Photo by Bruce Walters.

Passages is a grouping of four rectangular columns prominently placed between the Family Museum and the Bettendorf Public Library on Learning Campus Drive. The column closest to the library lies flat on the ground. In sequence, the other three stand angled at 45 degrees, 67 degrees, and finally fully vertical. The effect of these 18-foot-tall, stainless-steel columns rising in a stop-motion progression is impressive.

Yet what ultimately catches one's attention is the brightly painted sphere perched precariously at the top of the standing column. An area the size of the sphere has been scooped out of the other columns. These smooth inverse curves are painted in the same bright colors as the sphere - yellow, red, and green - and visually soften the angular metal impact of the sculptural group. They feel like a finger's indent in a stick of butter. The positioning of these indents creates an illusion of an upward trajectory or path that the sphere has taken.

(Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series on the history of public art in the Quad Cities.)

Sol LeWitt, 'Tower.' Photo by Bruce Walters.In 1984, a site-specific sculpture by the internationally renowned artist Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) was installed near the south entrance of the RiverCenter on Third Street in Davenport. Titled simply Tower, this sculpture was made of four 21-foot-tall slabs of concrete bolted to a framework of steel I-beams. These slabs, made of crushed marble and silica, were cast using more than a half-mile of Styrofoam strips.

Additional works by LeWitt, Wall Drawing #405 and Two Wall Drawings, were also installed in the center's atrium at this time. Longtime LeWitt assistant Anthony Sansotta worked with area art students to make these 18-foot-long drawings. In all, roughly 30 Quad Citians helped with the installations - including art students, plasterers, carpenters, painters, cement finishers, laborers, iron workers, crane operators, truck drivers, and electricians.

Don't look for these works at the RiverCenter, however. Tower was moved to the Figge Art Museum's plaza in October 2004. The original wall drawings were removed from the RiverCenter, and Wall Drawing #405 was redrawn inside the Figge at the top of the stairway leading to the second-floor galleries. LeWitt claimed this new drawing is not a re-creation but is still the original artwork. He regarded his wall drawings as impermanent and repeatable. And his work is intentionally unemotional.

(Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series on the history of public art in the Quad Cities.)

Photo by Bruce WaltersStanding on a ridge overlooking the Rock River, an 18-ton granite statue of Black Hawk dominates the space before the Watch Tower Lodge at the Black Hawk State Historic Site (1510 46th Avenue in Rock Island). This is near the location of the Native American village Saukenuk, the largest settlement in Illinois when it became a state in 1818. The statue's commanding presence tells us that this was a man of great importance.

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