A heart filled in with pink and blue and yellow squiggles. A Pokemon character. A game of tic-tac-toe. “I love Robert” written in capitalized letters.
These are just a sample of the drawings left behind on the chalkboard walls of Bent River Brewing Company.
And now, they’re not just for the eyes of those who frequent the brewery/restaurant in downtown Moline.
The chalk pieces, ranging from silly to serious and sloppy to skillful, have inspired their own digital archive on an Instagram page called “The Art of Bent River.”
Aaron Bailey, a bartender and manager at the brewery, launched the profile last July.
“Customers leave some interesting things behind,” he said. “It was always a shame to see them just wiped away.”
Before wiping them away, Bailey takes photos of whatever patrons drew on the chalkboards next to Bent River’s dining booths. He then posts them on social media and awaits a commenter to say something like, “Hey, I drew that!”
“It’s a fun extra thing,” he said. “I think it makes people smile when they’re scrolling on Instagram.”
One of the first posts was a sketch of a stick figure holding a bunch of colorful balloons. Others featured drawings include a snowflake, pumpkin and several kinds of flowers, cartoon characters and abstract scribbles.
“I have about 150 photos on my phone that I haven’t shared yet,” Bailey said. “Some of them are really good.”
Along with the customer-made chalk art, both of Bent River’s locations, in Rock Island and Moline, have solicited chalk artists, such as Ashley Boyer, to design their beer listings as well as seasonal murals.
You have free articles remaining.
“Chalk is really easy for a brewery to use because beers change out so fast that it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have something there permanently,” Boyer, a full-time teacher whose husband, Michael, is the head brewer at Bent River, said. “So, they already had chalk art around. Now, there’s even more.”
Boyer shares her chalk creations, which are so intricate that they often take four or more hours to complete, on social media with the hashtag #chalkartbyMrsB. Of the more casual drawings, Boyer said, “People seem to really get into it.”
Bailey said his “Art of Bent River” Instagram also serves as an unlikely way for the establishment to stand out among other area breweries or bars.
“I don’t know of another brewery that lets you just draw on the walls,” he said. “We have that kind of comfortable, family atmosphere.”
“It’s like a Cheers bar,” she said. “When you walk in, everyone knows your name and remembers your birthday. When people come back into town, they say they make a point to stop at Bent River.”
The proof of that can often be seen on the brewery’s walls.
During a visit to the brewery earlier this week, one section of the chalkboard was adorned with words written in purple chalk memorializing a traditional gathering between friends: “Fifth annual friendaversary.”
“Once you’re part of the Bent River family, you’re part of it for life,” Boyer said. “It’s that kind of place.”