Many local bars and restaurants have outdoor patios. None have what the Old Palace Tavern in downtown East Moline does — a jaw-droppingly huge, colorful mural.
“It’s amazing; we have people come out here just to take pictures,” Ksaundra Martin, manager of the bar and restaurant at 701 15th Ave., said Sunday on the new patio. “It is awesome. People love it.”
Building owner Larry Anderson (owner of East Moline Glass) also owns the building next door on which the mural was done – Girard Graphics and Design, 711 15th Ave. The Palace building is 107 years old and Anderson has owned it about 18 months. He also owns the nearby Rust Belt complex, 533 12th Ave.
The old tavern was renovated with new lighting, tables, chairs, paneling, bathrooms, rewiring and plumbing (and outdoor awnings) by last November. The inside seats 85 and the patio over 100.
“We were always planning on an outside patio and there was a big blank canvas there,” Anderson said. The patio was formerly a parking lot.
“We wanted to spruce it up a little bit, and Atlanta worked on the Steel Plow. We knew she was talented,” he said, noting she painted at the Moline restaurant (2180 53rd St.) and inside the Rust Belt.
“It’s more for the whole rebirth of East Moline,” Anderson said of the eye-catching mural, noting it helps the Palace business. The outdoor seating opened in June, with a large stage for live music.
Work done over four months
Dawn — a 29-year-old Moline native — worked on the sprawling mural from mid-April to mid-August, juggling it with her other busy art projects throughout the area. The Visit Quad Cities podcast called the artist “our own Bansky, and she’s painting the whole Quad Cities!” (Listen to Dawn HERE.)
She and her husband also have a one-year-old daughter, Violet. Dawn occasionally will do live painting during Rust Belt concerts, like she used to.
“Being a new mom, I can’t really do nights as much as I used to,” she said Sunday. “It’s a lot, but you’ve just got to be organized. You have to have good time management. I paint when she’s at day care.”
Dawn’s husband Cody works as a field mechanic for heavy equipment, with RMS.
Martin added more Palace patio tables and chairs about a month ago, and they host live music at least twice a week – the next is Jen Craft, 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 31.
The Palace started live music in June, and when Dawn started the mural, it was still a parking lot. They added a gate, so people couldn’t pull in.
Martin said it didn’t hurt to lose the parking space, since people are willing to walk from other parking downtown. The impetus for the patio was to add live music and give people a chance to enjoy sitting outside, she said.
Dawn started on the mural’s right half with the musicians – representing jazz, blues and salsa dancers, finishing in early June. She was painting at times when the Palace had live music.
“It was very all over the place, because I had so many jobs – a full schedule,” Dawn said. “When I found a gap between jobs, I would come here and work, or come on the weekends, whatever I had to do.”
Music and water themes
Dawn originally thought the music theme would cover the whole wall, so she added her sea/river theme to the left half, in honor of the Mississippi River.
“I was gonna do more musicians, but I decided to go a different direction and encompass what I feel like it is to live on the Mississippi,” she said, noting the design harks back to her childhood growing up on the Rock River in Moline.
Dawn created catfish, cattails and lightning bugs in the mural. “Whenever I drive down the Mississippi, I see blue herons flying,” she said, so a heron is prominent in the painting. “They’re so cool.”
“We wanted to give that feel, when music is playing, to give you that feel and enjoy it,” she said of the mural’s passionate musicians.
The artist also incorporated a lot of different lighting effects in the mural – from the musicians, to a anthropomorphic moon, to lighting bugs, and twinkling stars over the river.
Martin also has strings of real lights along the mural and will install an awning along the Palace side. She’s heard many compliments from customers.
“They love it; it’s amazing,” she said of the mural. “It’s an inspiration.”
Since it’s so huge, Dawn had some help from other local artists, including fellow muralist Heidi Sallows and a Metro Arts student.
She usually will take a picture of her mural surface, and will doodle on it on her iPad before tackling the paint on the actual wall.
Around the same time as the Palace, she did outdoor window murals for the Silvis Public Library, one piano for the RME One Sound Project, which is at Niabi Zoo, and a mural at Rath Fitness at the Rust Belt.
Dawn volunteered for organizing artists for the Living Lands & Waters Barge Party this summer, and also painted an indoor fourth-floor mural for an apartment building in downtown Davenport – which is a black-and-white replica of Picasso’s landmark “Guernica” (done in early July, 16 feet by 8 feet).
“It’s one of his favorite paintings and he thought it would go with the décor style,” Dawn said of that building owner.
She also did a large indoor mural several years ago at Aircraft Grill, near the QC International Airport, Moline; another large one at Iron + Grain Coffee House, Davenport (1618 N. Main St.), and this year did painting inside the new Yoso Japanese steakhouse to open in downtown Bettendorf (1591 Grant St.).
Future work adds up
Dawn has been talking with Robbie Wolfe (co-star of “American Pickers”) to do a mural on 5th Street in Davenport, outside his service shop. She will first paint a billboard for him there, with a Texaco man design, in about two weeks.
“Especially if he keeps it historical to the Quad Cities, that would be great,” Dawn said of a mural on the wall along the railroad bridge (over several city blocks). That work would probably start in the spring.
Dawn doesn’t mind painting temporary art for windows, since it’s a consistent source of work. She’s already setting up business windows for this holiday season.
“Christmas is right around the corner,” Dawn said. “I really am trying to have some plans for my Christmas season that are above and beyond.”
She’s busy year-round with windows, but Christmas is the most popular holiday – she did several in downtown Moline last year. She has popular window murals year-round at the Freight House complex, 421 W. River Drive, Davenport.
“People like it and it still looks really pretty,” Dawn said of those, noting many people at the weekly Farmers’ Market take pictures in front of her butterfly mural.
She hopes the Palace mural will generate even more business for her.
“When there’s music playing and the lights are on, you can see it coming down the hill, way up there,” Martin said.
“I feel like the mural really ties the space together – the stage and the outdoor seating,” Dawn said. “When I’ve been out here with my family, we have pizza and a beer, and it’s so nice, kind of magical.”
She also will be painting on the Mississippi riverfront in Davenport in a few weeks, when the new Viking River Cruise docks here.
Both Martin and Dawn are customers of Girard Graphics – for the artist’s art prints, and the restaurant’s promo posters. For more information on Dawn, click HERE.