Among a dozen comments on Quad-City Arts’ Facebook post unveiling “Spring Fling,” a new public sculpture in Bettendorf's Veterans Memorial Park, this one stuck out to Tyson Danner: “Well, my goodness, I guess this is the ‘happening’ place!”
For him, that response is what Quad-City Arts' long-running public sculpture program is all about.
“It changes the way you look at your community,” said Danner, the organization's community arts director. “You can look at where you live and say, ‘This is cool that we have that here.’”
Since 2002, the Rock Island-based nonprofit has organized the annual leasing and installation of sculptures, open to artists within a 350-mile radius, in parks, public spaces and in front of buildings around the Quad-Cities for one-year periods.
Including “Spring Fling,” 11 sculptures were selected by the cities of Bettendorf and Rock Island this year, nine of which have been installed within the past month in spaces such as Faye’s Field and the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center, both in Bettendorf, and Lincoln Park in Rock Island. The sculptures are available for purchase and will be on display through July 2018.
The program has a bigger presence this year; five sculptures were temporarily installed during the 2016-17 program.
This summer, Bettendorf leased sculptures for six spots and purchased two pieces from last year’s program, including one called “It’s Going to be Okay,” to be permanently installed at Faye’s Field. It cost $10,500.
High prices can hold cities back when it comes to building a public arts collection, Danner said, adding that sculptures can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000. Leasing a sculpture for a year through the Quad-City Arts program costs $1,200.
“It’s not realistic for a city to say, ‘Let’s go buy a bunch of public sculptures,’” he said. “It’s too expensive, so that’s where a rotating leasing approach works out.”
That strategy allows the city and its residents to try out sculptures, according to Chandler Poole, Rock Island's director of community and economic development.
"We can see how the community responds to different sculptures," he said. "And then if you like it, you say, 'OK, let's buy it.'"
Bettendorf Alderwoman Debe LaMar, 3rd Ward, wants the city to invest more in public art.
“We have everything here; we’re a great growing bedroom community,” she said. “But we lack the arts.”
LaMar started pushing the city to lease and purchase public sculptures about five years ago after she attended ArtPrize, a two-week festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that attracts 400,000 people and awards prizes totaling $200,000 to winning artists.
“I thought that was so cool,” she said. “I thought, why can’t we do something like that in Bettendorf on a smaller scale?
“I think it opens people’s minds to possibilities, to beauty and to being thoughtful. It’s just another aspect to build qualify of life, so people want to live here.”
Attracting residents with art also is on the minds of city officials in Rock Island, Poole said.
“When you look at quality of life, art is a critical component,” he said. “That’s something that most communities are starting to realize. When you bring art outside, you’ve enhanced the community.”
Rock Island, a regular participant in Quad-City Arts’ public sculpture program, recently purchased a sculpture, called "Note," which resembles a musical note and is on display in front of RIDRS, a bar and music venue on 2nd Avenue.
Danner said pieces such as that "bring life and excitement" to the downtown area.
“When you drive or walk around town and see a sculpture, it makes you feel like the community has life and interest in the arts,” he said. “Those are the little things that surprise you and add a smile to your day."