Two similar Quad Cities sculptures that could be best described as sentimental raise issues about the role of art. Although their tones are different, both pieces depict young girls with adult-male authority figures and are meant to reflect the goals of the organizations that host them.

Downtown Davenport was once bathed in the bright glow of neon signs. In a photo taken from the intersection of Main and Second streets in the 1940s, the Hansen’s Hardware neon sign in the foreground rises several stories over the street below. So does a nearby Kaybee sign. There are, seemingly, a dozen or more smaller neon signs in the block.

Today from the same vantage point, we see U.S. Bank, the Figge Art Museum plaza, and the Charles J. Wright Ground Transportation Center. The prominent Hansen neon sign? Long gone. So are all of the other large neon signs in the photo: Kaybee, The Hub, Three Sisters, Baker’s Shoes. Also gone are the even-more-impressive neon signs rising high above the downtown theatre marquees.

Neon signs from this past era, fortunately, can still be found elsewhere in the Quad Cities.

'Metamorphosis,' by Jacob McGinn. Photo by Bruce Walters.

'Metamorphosis,' by Jacob McGinn. Photo by Bruce Walters.

A human-like insect – larger than you – is frozen in a 10-foot-long stride. Its flailing arms are extended. All four of them.

Abraham Lincoln is listening to a young man seated on a railroad track. Lincoln’s deep-set eyes look outward, not returning the gaze of the young man. His left hand rises to his face in a speaking gesture, but his smile seems to have frozen – cut off as if by a sudden realization.

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

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.

'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 Peaceful Warriors,' by Skip Willits. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The Peaceful Warriors by Skip Willits and No Future - No Past - No You - No Me by Terry Rathje are located in an alley, not displayed prominently at a building's entrance or in an open location as one might expect for such thoughtful and professionally produced artworks. Both artists, however, created their pieces knowing that they would be displayed alongside graffiti, dumpsters, and loading docks.

Entering the alley between Second and Third avenues from 17th Street in the Rock Island District - near Theo's Java Club - one is initially met by Willits' three metal sculptures mounted high on a brick wall. The welded masks, made from hot rolled-metal sheets, are approximately five feet in height. In the daytime, they feel benign; their gaze is diffident. At night, they feel like armored sentries posted at an entry into darkness.

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