For the past five years, QC muralist and painter Heidi Sallows has heard the siren song of an art dream.

Now, that dream is sailing into reality in a new business called Siren Ship, being established in rented space on the second floor of the Village Market Place, 1019 Mound St., in the Village of East Davenport. Sallows, a former art teacher in Arizona, has organized the new nonprofit to collect art supplies, to be donated free to area teachers and sold to others at affordable prices.

Siren Ship is at 1019 Mound St., Village of East Davenport.

It aims to help keep art supplies from reaching landfills by redirecting and upcycling the large waste stream art and hobby-making material. It will also provide local artists jobs making art and utilitarian items out of the supplies, that are then sold in the shop. 

Siren Ship Corporation will primarily serve educational organizations and institutions, teachers and students, giving them access to free art supplies. 

“There are different businesses around the country that operate like this and they always benefit education,” Sallows said Wednesday. “I was a school teacher before, and you only get like $200 for the entire year from pre-K through high school. That’s not enough money, so you’re spending your own money on stuff.

“We thought it would be cool to come up with a program where teachers could shop for free,” Sallows said. “They can get supplies for their students that way.”

Other people can purchase supplies at affordable prices. Siren Ship also will start a program where teachers can request items and the nonprofit will fundraise to get what they need. “We want to support them,” Sallows said.

The new nonprofit is on the second floor of the Village Market Place (photo by Jonathan Turner).

It’s important to have a physical location so people can easily drop things off, she noted.

“It was a little rough going giving people bins, and then bringing the bins here. It was functioning, but not as well as we’d hoped, because we’re so new,” Sallows said. “We jumped into renting his place, because for us to be successful, we need a place that people will know – this is our home, where I can take things and go get the things from.”

The easily accessible business also is handicapped accessible, with an elevator from the ground floor.

Siren Ship has had small art-supply drives, and had a table this past summer and fall at the Freight House Farmers Market, where they collected donations.

Saturday fundraiser at Nerdspeak

This Saturday, Dec. 3, will be a main fundraiser for operational costs, at Nerdspeak Brewery, 7563 State St., Bettendorf, from 6 to 10 p.m. Nerdspeak will donate $2 from all sales of their “Aim to Misbehave” stout beer for Siren Ship. Visitors will get a free beer token and a Siren Ship chip, redeemable at the store, Sallows said.

She and Sarah Robb (another veteran QC muralist) have formed their own new business, MuralSoup Co. — and early this year, they completed transforming walls at the entrance and some large windows at Nerdspeak Brewery, on the east end of Bettendorf off U.S. 67.

Sarah Robb, left, and Heidi Sallows at the entrance to Nerdspeak Brewery (which they painted) in Bettendorf (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“These first couple months, we will be relying on donations,” Sallows said of Siren Ship, noting they’re seeking monetary and supply donations.

“Even if we raise just a couple hundred bucks, that’s great. Every little bit counts,” she said. “It gets us closer to our rent.”

In one section on the Village second floor, Sallows’s niece will move her flower studio, Blooms on the Bend. Siren Ship is occupying the second floor on both sides (formerly occupied by Hope’s Bridal and Integrity Integrated), totaling 3,000 square feet.

Renovations are underway for Siren Ship (photo by Jonathan Turner).

In addition to displaying art supplies for sale and donation, there may be space to sell works by local artists. Siren Ship has registered as a nonprofit on the state level, and is awaiting federal designation as a nonprofit, so they can accept tax-deductible donations.

On the right side of the floor will be the artists’ making studio, and space for drop-offs.

“We want to try to make it a little bit nicer, and not have it be just supplies in cardboard boxes,” Sallows said. “We want it to look nice, to have a boutique sort of feel. But everything will be affordably priced.”

Eventually, the group will hire a staff person for the store, and for now there is a public bin for donations outside the door that can be used between 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Paying other artists

Siren Ship will pay artists to do face painting at events, where the nonprofit and artist will get paid. “We’re still trying to find ways to pay artists and not ask people to do things for free,” she said. “Time is money and artists need to get paid, too.”

Sallows has researched this business for over five years. One of the similar groups is called Indigo Hippo in Cincinnati, and there’s another in Phoenix, which Sallows visited with her students.

On Nov. 29, Indigo Hippo posted on Facebook: “To date, the amount of creative materials we’ve diverted from the waste stream is equal to the weight of roughly 130 Hippos! (That’s over 155,000 lbs!)”

“It was just amazing, the looks on their faces, the look on my face,” she said of getting supplies for free. “I want to do that for other people. Just the looks on people’s faces when you give them free art supplies.”

Sallows named the business Siren Ship for many reasons.

There’s a part in “The Little Mermaid,” Ariel has a collection of things under the sea. “She sings the song, ‘Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?’” she said. “Yes, I want a cavern full of reused stuff, like a sunken ship full of treasure. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

“Plus, it’s playful,” Sallows said of the moniker. “If we’re going to do programs, we wanted an icon that’s playful and relatable and that people can put themselves into. So we thought of Mississippi ‘mer-folk’ or ‘mer-people.’ Why can’t we have mermaids in the Mississippi?”

Siren Ship also reflects environmental protection and sustainability, to reuse supplies (diverting them from landfills), and making use of material in multimedia artwork, she said.

“Instead of looking at waste as waste, look at it more as a municipal resource – what can I do with this?” Sallows said. “Can I donate this to somebody and they can use this?”

Siren Ship wants to help educate people about recycling and sustainability, and this is a fun way to lead them in, she said.

Siren Ship supporters dressed as mermaids for this year’s Davenport Halloween Parade.

They had about 10 people dressed as mermaids who participated in the Davenport Halloween Parade, and gave out art supplies instead of candy. “It was a lot of fun,” Sallows said, noting they gave away nice art pens.

Separate from MuralSoup

Siren Ship is a totally separate business from MuralSoup, and will soon have a separate website (which is currently hosted under MuralSoup).

“Siren Ship is not in the business of painting murals,” Sallows said, noting Sarah Robb is the chair of the Siren Ship board.

MuralSoup allows them to contract work out to other local artists, she said.

Sallows and Sarah Robb are partners in MuralSoup Co., a totally separate business (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“We want to hire other people and we have hired other artists to work with us,” Sallows said. “The Siren Ship end of it, we would hire artists not just to do painting, but making stuff out of tin cans or stuff from paper crafts, and that’s sold over here.”

They may rent space to other artists to sell their work, but that hasn’t been decided.

“Right now, we’re focused on reaching out to teachers, getting this place open, and doing some mini-fundraising events, between now and January-February,” she said. “Then by March, we hope to be operating full-time.”

One program is “Tools for Teachers,” where teachers can tell Siren Ship what they need, and they can respond. Many donations have been new or nearly-new supplies.

Siren Ship has a big need for markers, watercolor paints, and glue, Sallows said. It will be “first come, first serve” for teachers to get supplies. “You can’t give teachers enough glue,” she joked. “We’ll take it by the gallon if you’ve got it.”

For more information, visit the Siren Ship website, or email artsupplydrives@gmail.com.