Saturday in the Arts is a weekly feature covering a trend, subject, event or personality of local interest. It runs every Saturday morning on your site for the best entertainment and arts coverage in the area, QuadCities.com!
Kyle Carter and Geoff Manis are two of the biggest cheerleaders for the Quad-Cities, and within two days of each other this month, they sang the praises on social media of placemaking – the long, arduous, gratifying task of creating and sustaining a unique, impressive, growing community.
Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, posted on Facebook Sept. 19:
“The term ‘placemaking’ can be hard to grasp initially, but this weekend defined it beautifully. K-Square’s rebirth and beautification, an exciting new outdoor venue in LeClaire, Blues Fest on the riverfront, and Riverssance in the Village epitomize why this is so important. I had a blast this weekend in the QC, and this is still only a fraction of what was going on.”
Geoff Manis, Main Street program manager for the city of Moline, posted Sept. 17 that placemaking “creatively complements a community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote peopl
e’s health, happiness, and well-being.”
He posted photos of some placemaking efforts that have been completed just within the last year in downtown Moline – including Bass Street Landing and colorful murals. “Creating an area of the Quad Cities where ALL citizens feel welcome, safe, and vibrant is our number-one priority at the Moline Centre,” Manis wrote, with the hashtag “#bestisyettocome.”
Working in partnership with the Quad Cities Chamber, Quad City Arts, Renew Moline, Development Association of Rock Island, and many other groups, each of the main cities in the area have certainly made huge strides in the past 30-plus years in reimagining and redefining what is special about each community.
But with the recent adoption of Moline’s ambitious Public Art and Placemaking Plan, and moves by each downtown organization in Moline, Rock Island, Davenport, and Bettendorf, there is much momentum to keep the placemaking train on track, boosting its speed, power and influence.
“Placemaking is taking a front-and-center position at the Chamber of Commerce, and extensions of the chamber have already had great success in placemaking,” Kevin Maynard, executive director of Quad City Arts, told a morning network Chamber meeting Sept. 15 on arts and culture.
New downtown Rock Island director, Jack Cullen (under the Chamber), “understands the power of the arts and placemaking,” Maynard said. He was thrilled with last month’s unveiling of a big spray-painted mural at 313 20th St., Rock Island, by 16-year-old Rocky student Riley
They’re in discussion on future mural projects, as well as incorporating the arts into infrastructure redesigns.
“That mural also helped to activate an alley and after cleaning up that alley, it’s also a point of pride for those businesses that are moving in,” Maynard said.
“The arts are important,” he said. “The Chamber of Commerce has a goal of attracting talent – specifically younger talent. In a recent study, public art and placemaking are more important to younger demographics when making decisions about where to live and work, specifically referring to millennials and Gen Z-ers.
“In short, everyone wants to live in a cool place an arts and culture are the ticket to get there,” he said. “Thankfully, we live in a region that is doing more to prioritize public art and placemaking.”
Maynard’s favorite definition of placemaking is that it “inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces at the heart of every community.”
“Strengthening connections between people and the places they share, placemaking refers to a collaborative process,” he said. “By which we can shape our public realm, in order to maximize shared value. More than just promoting better urban design, placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use – paying particular attention to the physical, cultural and social identities that define a place and its ongoing evolution.”
“Why does it matter that the Quad Cities has a vibrant arts and culture scene?” Maynard asked. “It’s not just because I think the arts have the power to save the world, which I do. It’s because whether you realize it or not, the arts are touching every aspect of your life and our community. The arts will lead us to an economic recovery.”
In the U.S., the arts generate 4.2 percent of annual GDP, or $736 billion, and employs over 4.9 million people — a larger share than construction or farming. While it will take a while for the sector to rebound from Covid, “it will rebound,” Maynard said.
Locally, nonprofit arts organizations have an economic impact of over $71 million a year (according to 2015 data), outpacing sports in our region, he said, noting updated numbers will soon be compiled.
“Creativity is a top-three desired skill,” Maynard said. “It is not surprising that 90 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs participated in the arts in their schools. It’s also why businesses want to relocate to areas that a vibrant arts community — not only because they are seeking that creativity, but they want their employees to have entertainment options in their community.”
Two-thirds of all tourism in the U.S. is driven by arts and culture, he added. “Cultural tourists spend twice as much when they are visiting. Think of a place you want to visit or a place you want to move, and odds are they have a great art community — whether it’s murals ad sculptures, museums and galleries, music in public spaces, performances and theater.”
Younger workers are putting greater emphasis on the arts when they decide where to live and work, Maynard said. “In short, everyone wants to live in a cool place. And arts and culture is the ticket to get there.”
Quad City Arts helped up the “cool” factor in the QC during last month’s four-day Alternating Currents Festival, in downtown Davenport, Rock Island and Moline. The nonprofit organized the popular Silent Disco and Squonk, in and around the Davenport Skybridge.
As part of its public art program, Quad City Arts is reaching out to neighborhood residents to get their input on what art they want to see in their area.
The Downtown Davenport Partnership has formed a public art committee and has a placemaking plan, also including art in infrastructure designs. Moline recently adopted a public art and placemaking plan that makes “significant investments” in arts, including public funding — and spending 2 percent of capital improvement projects on arts, as well as 1 percent in private development along identified corridors.
“It’s a bold plan and Moline leadership should be commended for it,” Maynard said.
He recommended that the public make financial commitments to local arts groups and artists; attend free and paid events, and help promote the arts through social media and word of mouth.
“Support local artists — buy their art, purchase their album, tip the band that’s playing at your favorite bar,” he said. “Also, let’s end the idea of creating or doing something for exposure. Let’s pay artists their worth — remember, there’s a reason you reached out to them to play at your event, create your logo, etc. They add value to your business.”
Quad City Arts and the Chamber partnered on the Riley Jones mural and through that partnership has raised money for an additional mural, through grants and donations. “At this time, we know we will be doing one more mural, and it is highly likely that we will be doing more than one. Murals and public art accomplish a lot in a community,” Maynard said, adding:
- They beautify an area, and not just with…