As the Quad-Cities counted down to Y2K, the corner of 2nd and Harrison streets in Davenport was an abandoned parking lot. A block away on Main Street stood a former downtown department store with seemingly no use.
Up on “Museum Hill,” the Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science stood next to the Davenport Museum of Art, or DMA, each packed to the gills and ready to expand.
What a difference 10 years makes.
Today, 2nd and Harrison is home to the Figge Art Museum, the first American creation by British architect David Chipperfield, nationally and internationally recognized for both its design and contents.
That abandoned department store a block away has become home to the River Music Experience, a museum-turned-performance and education space that celebrates original music by area and national performers.
The opening of the Figge turned off the lights at the DMA and made way for expansion at the Putnam, including the IMAX Theatre that draws crowds for both educational short movies and large-screen entertainment.
Those, along with a colorful Davenport skybridge sniffed at by detractors as the “Bridge to Nowhere,” are all thanks to the Vision Iowa program, which helped fund attractions that both satisfied local residents and tried to draw tourists.
That was one of many highlights during the first decade of the 21st century in terms of arts, entertainment and culture in the Quad-Cities. Here’s a closer look at those, as well as others.
THE FIGGE: Opening in August 2005, the Figge Art Museum brought new attention to Davenport’s downtown with a unique shape that made itself part of the city’s skyline. A variety of traveling exhibits was capped by the temporary possession of works from the University of Iowa Museum of Art, including Jackson Pollock’s famous “Mural,” in 2009.
THE RME: The June 2004 opening of the River Music Experience turned the former Redstone Building into a state-of-the-art museum with interactive exhibits celebrating the jazz, blues, folk, country and rock music inspired by the river. But less than two years later, the RME shifted the focus of its second floor to live performances, with the Redstone Room becoming a 250-seat showplace for both national and area performers.
THE PUTNAM: The museum, first opened in 1867, got some 21st-century expansions and upgrades, chief among them the opening of the IMAX in March 2002. The seven-story-high screen has taken viewers from the depths of the sea to the far reaches of space, as well as allowing them to enjoy Hollywood movies such as “The Polar Express,” an annual holiday tradition, and a variety of other big-name films such as “The Dark Knight.”
THEATER GROWTH: New theater companies abounded in the Quad-Cities during the past decade, beginning with the New Ground Theatre and then the Prenzie Players, Harrison Hilltop Theatre, Riverbend Theatre Collective and The Curtainbox Theatre Company. Many of them call the former Turner Hall, now the Village Theatre in the Village of East Davenport, home. Other companies took their final bows, including the Ghostlight Theatre and The Green Room Theatre.
BUCKTOWN OPENS: The east end of Davenport’s 2nd Street got an arts jump-start in July 2005 with the debut of the Bucktown Center for the Arts, a combination of studios, galleries and sales space that was orchestrated by MidCoast Fine Arts. The building includes the home of the Midwest Writing Center, as well as loft space condominiums.
‘ROAD’ TO HOLLYWOOD: A bit of the Quad-Cities made it to Hollywood thanks to Max Allan Collins, whose graphic novel “Road to Perdition” — based on the exploits of early 20th-century Rock Island crime kingpin John Looney — was turned into an Oscar-winning 2004 movie that starred Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. It was another prolific decade for Muscatine, Iowa, native Collins, whose published works ranged from “Perdition” sequels to TV and movie tie-in novels to documentary movies.
LOCALS MAKE GOOD: Eric Christian Olsen, who was raised in Bettendorf, nabbed lead roles in the not-quite-classic films “When Harry Met Lloyd: Dumb and Dumberer” and “Fired Up,” but he also worked alongside stars such as Robin Williams, Ben Affleck, Zach Braff and Amy Adams. Davenport North grad Dana Davis had roles in the TV series “Heroes” and “The Nine,” and she is now on ABC Family’s “10 Things I Hate About You,” as well as having been in the movies “Raise Your Voice,” “Coach Carter” and “Prom Night.”
ADLER EXPANSION: A $12 million renovation of Davenport’s Adler Theatre in 2005-2006 made the way for a larger stage area — no more pared-down sets by national touring companies of Broadway shows — and dressing rooms that had not seen improvements in decades. The expansion also laid the groundwork for multiple runs of shows such as “Chicago,” “Mamma Mia!” and, next year, “Beauty and the Beast.”
DAYTROTTER: An anonymous upper-floor studio in downtown Rock Island is the home of an Internet music phenomenon. Begun in 2006 by former Quad-City Times sports and entertainment reporter Sean Moeller, the site has helped break out indie acts that include Vampire Weekend and Death Cab for Cutie, recorded established acts such as Kris Kristofferson and Tori Amos, and branched out into producing concerts from some of those performers.
MOVIES FILMING IN QCA: Thanks to some eventually controversial tax breaks, Hollywood came to the Midwest. The Quad-Cities was the home for the filming of the baseball movie “Sugar,” which was chosen one of the top-10 pictures of 2009 by the American Film Institute; and the made-for-Syfy cable TV flicks “Children of the Corn” and “Megafault.” Brothers Pupi and Antonio Avati returned to the Q-C to film “The Hideout,” with Burt Young and Treat Williams, but the movie only appeared in Italy.
BLUEBOX SUCCESS: Bluebox Limited — created by young Bettendorf filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods — produced several local films with area actors and caught the attention of MTV (which honored the two University of Iowa students as best campus filmmakers and gave them a movie deal) and the Matt Damon-Ben Affleck series “Project Greenlight,” where they got as far as one-on-one meetings with the star-producers.
THE MARK TO I WIRELESS: July 2007 brought a corporate name change for the 14-year-old Mark of the Quad-Cities in Moline when the cellular telephone company that held the naming rights officially changed it to the i wireless Center. Under either name, the riverfront venue continued to host performers ranging from classic rock (Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and Sting) to young icons (Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift), with a lot of country (Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride and Brad Paisley) in between.