We had 69 entries in our spring photography contest, with the categories "brazen," "future," and "illumination." As you might guess, that last one got the majority of the entries, and there were admittedly some struggles in making connections between the prompts and the pictures in the other two.

That's part of the fun of these contests, however. On these pages you'll find some of our favorites, with whatever commentary the photographer provided.

Thanks to all who entered!

Illumination, First Place: Skylar Davis.

Brazen, Third Place: Jess Ellis.

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.

Here you'll find selections from the photography and video exhibit Augustana Sights & Sounds, which will run from January 25 through February 22 at the Bucktown Center for the Arts (225 East Second Street in Davenport). An opening reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, January 25, and will feature music by Augustana students along with the visual work.

Photographers featured in the show include students from Augustana College and local high schools.

Angelica Lindqvist, Augustana College class of 2016

'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.

'The Mighty Fine Line,' by William Gustafson. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The first railroad bridge across the Mississippi (at Rock Island) and the establishment of industry in Moline are commemorated in two Quad Cities murals painted by William Gustafson. One can almost feel the wheel of progress beginning to turn in the depiction of these transformative events.

The Mighty Fine Line is a 55-by-45-foot mural on the south side of Steve's Old Time Tap in the Rock Island District, near the corner of Third Avenue and 17th Street. Painted in 2006, the mural marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the first rail bridge to span the Mississippi River. Gustafson, who teaches art at Rock Island High School, worked with Curtis Roseman - a local historian and professor emeritus at the University of Southern California - to provide historic details of the mural's subjects. As Gustafson told me in an interview, historic accuracy in these works was important to him.

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