The boundlessly talented QC muralists Heidi Sallows and Sarah Robb continue to help beautify the area, with their stunning artwork both indoors and out.

Earlier this year, the veteran artists formed their own business (Mural Soup) and partnered on creating colorful art throughout Nerdspeak Brewery in Bettendorf. In this summer’s Metro Arts youth apprenticeship program, Sallows and Robb led 20 students (ages 15-21) in painting new murals at two intersections at Davenport’s 4th and Pershing.

QC mural artists Sarah Robb, left, and Heidi Sallows at the entrance they painted at Nerdspeak Brewery, 7563 State St., Bettendorf (photo by Jonathan Turner).

In July, Sallows (with help from similar busy local muralist Atlanta Dawn) created a gorgeous beach-themed mural with arches on the east wall of Los Portales Mexican restaurant, 1231 5th Ave., Moline.

And in late July and this month, Sallows and Robb led a huge project inside the education wing of the Martin Luther King Center, 630 9th St., Rock Island, which involved up to 100 students ages 5 to 14.

Part of the new Metro Arts murals at 4th and Pershing in downtown Davenport.

Jerry Jones, executive director of the King Center, said Monday that the process started about three years ago, with strategic planning and the board wanted “to see a more warm, welcoming environment for our kids,” he said, noting a Metro Arts mural was done outside in 2019.

“Their ability to bring out the kids’ artistic vision is excellent,” Jones said of Sallows and Robb, who encouraged students to paint their own self-portraits on walls. He also left it up to the artists to paint other MLK-inspired art, including a large portrait of the civil rights leader.

Sallows’ portrait on a wall of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, 630 9th St., Rock Island.

“I left it in their very good hands, and tried to stay out of it,” he said. “The only thing I said was, don’t put me on it.”

It was vital to include the King Center kids’ self-portraits, Jones said.

“It’s the pride, the joy that shows,” he said. “It allows them to further internalize their feeling of true self-worth and value at the King Center.”

“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” Robb (who has led many Metro Arts murals for years) said recently. “The suggestion was to get the kids involved. It brings down the cost for them.”

“We structured it so the bulk of the work was done by the youth,” she said. “This way, the community is winning, the nonprofit is winning.”

Artist Sarah Robb works with King Center summer youth this month on a new mural.

“Before, they were just kind of these cinder-block painted hallways and so they wanted to bring some life and some color, and for the kids have an opportunity to express themselves and what they wanted to see on the wall,” Sallows said of the King Center. “So Sarah being super familiar with doing community projects, and then I came up with the designs.”

“Heidi has done some elaborate designs with the portraits, more trying to find a way to make them more cohesive on the wall,” Robb said. “It looks really cool, has an urban street art feel.”

Several student self-portraits at the King Center.

Los Portales and beyond

Sallows has been friends with Los Portales co-owner Roberto Orozco several years, and had previously painted murals for him at his Jalapenos restaurant in Moline.

“It took about a month and half on it. I didn’t work on it every single day, ’cause of my other projects,” she said of Los Portales. It overlapped somewhat with the downtown Davenport Metro Arts murals, so she asked some of those kids to work on it, as well as Atlanta Dawn, who recently finished a mammoth 115-foot-long mural on the side of the Palace Tavern in East Moline.

“Atlanta is a very up-and-coming and well-known artist in her own right,” Sallows said. “She came and painted a giant pot for me. And so that was a lot of fun. We’ve been kind of supporting each other here and there and it’s been awesome. She’s a great artist to work with.”

The mural at Los Portales, 1231 5th Ave., Moline (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Orozco said the downtown Moline restaurant mural attracts many people, who stop by to take pictures or come in and have a drink.

“To be honest, when I told her I need a painting, I told her, I trust what you do, whatever you want to do,” he said recently. “She’s really great, and I mean, it doesn’t matter what time it is, she’s working.” 

The outdoor patio at the restaurant is on the west side of the building and Orozco said he plans to ask Sallows to come back and paint on that side as well.

QC muralist Atlanta Dawn helped Sallows with the downtown Moline painting.

“My goal is to always to do outdoor projects because you don’t have to go into a gallery or into somebody’s home or into a business to see it,” she said of public art like this.

“As much as I love painting for private clients or in more private sort of spaces, I think it’s amazing when you get artwork outside that anybody can see if they’re in the area, I’m in the neighborhood of wherever that works,” Sallows said. “Then with the power of the Internet, you know you can post this stuff online now and then people from all over can see it.”

Regarding the large 2018 mural that Sallows, Robb and friends did on the side of Fred & Ethel’s retro antique shop, at 30th Street and 14th Avenue in Rock Island, owner Jennifer Horvath said the other day – “I wish I would have had you guys paint sooner, had I known that it was going to increase my business that much,” Sallows recalled. “And I was like, that’s a really cool thing to hear.”

Part of the pocket park mural at Rock Island’s 30th Street and 14th Avenue.

That mural is 80 feet long and 20 feet high, and the “pocket park” was a partnership between the city of Rock Island and Fred & Ethel’s.

 “It’s nice to see artwork go up and to see people make money off of their artwork,” Sallows said. For more information on Mural Soup, click HERE. For a gallery of King Center photos, see below.