The future of downtown Moline looks much brighter now, literally.
After just eight days of work, a sprawling new $30,000 public mural in downtown Moline was unveiled Wednesday, Oct. 25 in a ribbon-cutting at 1405 5th Ave.
As they have done on downtown streets around the world, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based artists Jari “WERC” Alvarez and Gera “GERALUZ” Lozano created a new mural on the west side of the Analog Pizza and Arcade building, roughly 120 feet wide by 26 feet tall.
They were chosen by the Moline Public Art Commission from a field of over 150 artist submissions received from all over the U.S.
A couple in real life, WERC and GERALUZ have partnered in making murals over the past decade, including eight in Dubuque (in 2016 and 2018). The mural still has at least a day of finishing to be complete; the pair’s next project this fall is in the DUMBO neighborhood of their hometown of Brooklyn.
“We have a long trajectory of seeing the power of public art, how it engages communities, changes the way we feel about public space,” WERC said at the Moline ribbon-cutting. “It really nurtures creativity and a dialogue. It is also a great catalyst for economic development and placemaking.
“We’re very grateful to be part of that and grateful to be the first artists to get this going,” he said.
This is the commission’s first public art mural since it was formed in late 2021, and the commission is excited to provide additional mural and art opportunities throughout the city of Moline, including both local and non-local artists as placemaking plans continue to develop.
The Moline Public Art and Placemaking Plan was adopted in 2021, and more public art projects are planned for 2024, the next one starting next spring, said commission chair Jeff Dismer.
“I think it’s beautiful, stunning,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “It looks fantastic, with the artistry and the amount of detail, expertise.”
The next mural will be on a new building in a public park in downtown, Dismer said, declining to name the specific location.
“We’re very excited to do this,” Quad City Arts executive director Kevin Maynard said at the ribbon-cutting, noting Quad City Arts didn’t have a role in choosing the artists, but facilitated the process.
“This project was listed in the Public Art and Placemaking Plan to put a mural on the side of this building, and they wanted something that was completely new and unique to the Quad Cities,” he said. “I think the Moline Public Art Commission did a great job with that.”
“To see this coming to fruition is absolutely incredible,” said Analog building owner Dan Bush, who owns it with Rich Cooksey. “The caliber and artists and the quality of work speaks for itself. We are just so privileged that this is happening on our building. It’s a big surface and definitely changes the surface, not only of this building and this block face.”
He said a friend who lives up the hill has called the mural “The Eyes of Moline,” and WERC said later they haven’t decided on a title for it.
“I didn’t expect this to get done until March, and somehow under the gun, before we get snow, we made it happen,” Bush said. Perfect timing also since Analog has their huge Christmas pop-up display opening Nov. 1.
“The sheer scale of it will attract attention,” Bush said of the mural. “People who live up the hill will see it even better.”
He also owns the squat gray building on the corner (formerly which housed a Jimmy John’s), but hasn’t decided what to do with it. Analog is focused on getting ready for the holiday season, Bush said.
“It’s not only beautiful; it’s awe-inspiring,” Visit Quad Cities president/CEO Dave Herrell said of the new mural. “I’m incredibly proud to be standing before something so unbelievably amazing as this piece of art.”
“We’re very grateful for all the time and energy you put into this project,” he said to the artists. Herrell also thanked Bush for his business investments, and that he “believes in the power of the Quad Cities.”
He credited Renew Moline, the Moline Public Art Commission and the city for having “courage and civic will, and you gotta have collaboration and partnerships.”
“If you don’t have a city that’s willing to think big, you’re not going to be anywhere,” Herrell said. “Mayor, thank you for your leadership.”
Murals like this will also boost QC tourism, he said.
“When you’re talking about public art, visitors and that visitor experience is so vitally important for how people perceive your community’s brand,” Herrell said. “They want vibrancy, they want creativity, and they want THIS. They just do.”
It takes collaboration and finding the right people to do it, he said, and he referenced many social media comments recently with many people complaining that local artists should have done this work.
“We love our local artists and I think that’s important, but I think sometimes our community needs to take a step back and think of the perspective that people doing amazing work all over the world and how they can influence our community,” Herrell said.
“I love the fact that this artistry is now embodying what I think the city of Moline is standing for and what the Quad Cities is standing for – a place that has a bright future ahead,” he said. “We can do big things when we work together.”
Partnership is crucial
“Partnership is the key to getting anything accomplished in civic life,” said Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati. “Having international artists do this work for us speaks well for the Quad Cities. We are a welcoming community and we are open to the world. Our artwork shows that; our people show that, and the way we try to do our business shows that as well. I’m very proud of the fact, of course we support local art as well.
“I am looking forward to the rest of the work the Public Art Commission will do,” Rayapati said. “I believe transformative work like this…this links us to our history and to our future. It links our culture, our cultural expression and our identity, and expresses our vibrancy as a community.”
The Public Art Commission may cooperate with the summer Metro Arts program (artists age 15-21) of Quad City Arts, which often does multiple murals throughout the area every year. There won’t necessarily be fewer Metro Arts projects in Moline, with the city Public Art Commission doing its own work.
“I think the more, the better,” Jeff Dismer said. “The more of a thriving community we’ll have. I don’t think it takes the place of the amount of art or installations.”