The Giant Wheel rises to a height of 110 feet above Modern Woodmen Park's baseball field in Davenport. This exciting addition to the Quad Cities' riverfront is part viewing platform, part light display, part landmark. It is also a part of our regional history.

Photo by Bruce Walters.

The height of the five-story Black Hawk mural in the Rock Island District is what first catches our eye. Our attention continues to be held as we begin to realize that much of the mural is a painted illusion of three-dimensional space - blended seamlessly with actual architectural forms. Its most compelling aspect, however, may be the clash of values between Native American culture and ours that can be discovered in the work.

1109 East Rusholme Street in Davenport. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Against the unknown, Halloween is our brave face. It confronts the lengthening nights and approaching cold of winter. It laughs loudly in the face of death.

Today, Halloween is often perceived simply as a kid-friendly celebration for costume parties and collecting candy. Though the holiday suits our contemporary world, many of its traditions are surprisingly old. Trick-or-treating, for example, became widespread in America in the 1940s. However, the custom of dressing in costumes and begging door-to-door dates back to the Middle Ages. Wearing costumes to ward off harmful spirits at this time of year is even more ancient. This practice evolved over the centuries, yet the core intent to transform one's identity still captivates us.

The Rock Island Clock Tower Building. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The impressive clocks atop the Rock Island Clock Tower building (at the western point of Arsenal Island) and the Wells Fargo building (at 201 West Third Street in Davenport) are highly visible landmarks - day or night. From a distance, the clocks appear to be about the size of a full moon - and, like the moon, are viewed against the sky.

The message conveyed by the height, location, and longevity of these towers is that the institutions associated with them are of great importance to our community. Gazing upward to read the time forces us to look up to these institutions.

Photo by Bruce Walters

Cadence of Diversity is a joyful mural - rich with expressions of many cultures that are balanced with an underlying theme of connectedness.

The 100-foot-long mural is painted on a concrete wall just south of Seventh Avenue on 38th Street in Rock Island. Working with more than 50 Augustana students, Peter Xiao - a professor of art at the college - led the mural's development and execution throughout much of 2009, completing the work in the spring of 2010.

The Blues Brothers. Photo by Bruce Walters.

On May 2, the life-sized sculptures of the Blues Brothers were back on public display in the Rock Island District after months of storage and repairs. The sculptures are seated in chairs near the corner of Second Avenue and 18th Street.

On the same day, Watching the Ferry - a sculpture of two boys seated on a park bench - was unveiled at its new site in Davenport's Lindsay Park near the riverfront. This sculpture had been out of public view for five years, since its removal from near the Iowa American Water treatment plant when construction began on a floodwall.

Although the timing was a coincidence, the two sculptures share some similarities. Both depict two young men seated side-by-side and convey a sense of camaraderie. Both look to a past associated with the Quad Cities. Both are based on works in other media: television and film with the Blues Brothers and a lithograph with Watching the Ferry.

A comparison between the two pieces is intriguing because of this difference in their sources - as well as in their attitudes, materials, and locations.

Photo by Bruce Walters

The Lindsay Architectural Sculpture Park is a grouping of structural forms derived from historic styles of buildings and homes in the Quad Cities. The park is - in turn - visually engaging, playful, and educational. It is located along the Riverfront Parkway south of the Village of East Davenport.

The park's layout feels organic. Its overall circular shape is crisscrossed with walkways that lead one past - or through - 10 primary groupings of structural forms. The largest of these structures is a 30-foot-tall limestone tower. Its slate roof is constructed in the style of the Victorian towers and turrets built in the late 1800s.

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.

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.

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.

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