A large abstract sculpture, Lloyd's Trek, greets visitors to Schwiebert Riverfront Park in the District of Rock Island. Standing some 20 feet tall at the park's southwest corner, the sculpture seems to watch protectively over the many areas of activities: a fountain meant to be run through; a playground that combines digital game elements with contemporary slides, swings, and climbing structures; a checkerboard concrete beach; walkways; and a performance stage.
The artwork feels fresh and intuitive. Though the artist, Stuart Morris, said it is an abstraction of a walking figure, its playful balance and irregular shapes also suggest a precarious stack of blocks or a doorway to the park.
The sculpture - dedicated on August 8, 2010 - memorializes Lloyd Schoeneman, an artist and arts administrator who served as Quad City Arts' community liaison and director of public visual arts for 22 years, until his death in 2001. Although it was originally intended to be placed on Second Street near the entrance to Quad City Arts along with trail markers and planted trees, the sculpture's location in an active public space better reflects Schoeneman's commitment to a partnership between the arts and the community. (The sculpture can be readily viewed from the Quad City Arts Center through the gallery's large north windows.) The piece's blend of whimsy and sophistication also seems to capture the spirit of Schoeneman's own artwork.
Morris, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, worked with Schoeneman on several RiverWay artworks, including the navigation steps in Bettendorf's Leach Park. These works explored past and present relationships between industry and the Mississippi River.
This relationship is expressed in Lloyd's Trek through the use of industrial materials - weathered metal sheets and concrete - and the aqua-colored waves that circumscribe the sculpture's middle section. The waves are patterned with reflective rectangular forms that enliven the surface but also feel like spikes or large rivet heads. A small welded patch that cuts through the continuous waves seems to further speak of the impact of industry on the river. Yet, this shape - inaccessibly placed far over our heads - also suggests a sealed door, hinting that something is hidden within.
Morris successfully uses contradictions - playful and sophisticated, industrial and whimsical, weathered and new - to create a dignified memorial that is imaginative and welcoming.
Bruce Walters is a professor of art at Western Illinois University.
This is part of an occasional series on the history of public art in the Quad Cities. If there's a piece of public art that you'd like to learn more about, e-mail the location and a brief description to BD-Walters@wiu.edu.