Talented Quad Cities artists have taken formerly nondescript garages in a downtown Davenport alley and created explosively colorful murals.

The five new murals are in the alley behind 221 E. 2nd St., downtown Davenport (photos by Jonathan Turner).

Five murals – painted within just four days last week during the Alternating Currents festival – are permanently on the garage doors at the rear side of the building at 221 E. 2nd St. (along Emerson Place), which is home to Nehlsen Creative and H.L. By Design. The garages face south toward Stompbox Brewing, and had been used by Pedal Pub for storage.

“The Alternating Currents festival mural art division was a complete success,” said Heidi Sallows, one of two veteran mural artists (with Atlanta Dawn) who supervised the work and helped choose the participating artists. “The 5 artists that were chosen did a stellar job creating their work.

“Atlanta and I feel we did a great job taking care of artists and the fest did a great job of taking care of us all,” Sallows said Wednesday. “We all were fed as well, which we all appreciated immensely. We survived the heat, pulled some late nights and helped each other…made new friends and connected with the community directly. I’d be more than happy to be a part of a team again, making mural art in public.”

Each artist/artist team received paint, materials and a $800 stipend from Downtown Davenport Partnership to complete their mural between Aug. 17 and 20, 2023 during Alternating Currents.

“I’m always seeing these amazing mural festivals online in other towns, so I am so excited we were able to organize something similar, finally in the Quad Cities,” Dawn said Wednesday. “The chosen artists did an amazing job, they learned the difficulties of challenging wall surfaces, dealing with the elements, and the rewarding work of creating for the community.

“I hope this event leads to bigger opportunities for more public art throughout the Quad Cities highlighting our local talent,” she said.

Atlanta Dawn had had dreamed of doing a Community Mural Fest and the Downtown Davenport Partnership (DDP) jumped on the opportunity to collaborate, DDP program director Alisha Espey said Wednesday. “It was the perfect activation and greatly enhanced the visual arts component of this year’s Alternating Currents Festival.”

“We were lucky secure funding in short order from TBK Bank as our AC Arts Partner to make our vision become a reality,” Espey added.

The property owners (Cris and Scott Ryder) were great to work with and trusted the process, she said. “The artists worked overtime to execute the project quickly and it was awesome to have the community engage with them throughout the process. They have received a ton of community love.”

The art installations are the first of many enhancements that will be coming to Emerson Place over the next year, Espey said. The DDP is investing in decorative lighting down Emerson Place from Perry to Iowa Street and will be adding iron archways as well.

“This was a great way to jumpstart the alley improvements and the murals are highly visible from River Drive,” she said. “We couldn’t be happier with the outcome and excitement this project has created.”

Below are statements from the AC participating artists (on the murals looking left to right):

Mural by Tony Cavallo
  • Tony Cavallo: Born in Davenport, studied under Hieronymous Bosch. Oil, spray, acrylic mixed style artist. Focused on elements of realism and surrealism. Subject matter usually entails nature and technology. Using classical painting techniques to match ancient colors and patterns, he spent the past three years restoring the Capitol Theatre to its former glory
Mural by Mya Diabira
  • Mya Diabira: Currently an art major at Black Hawk College, she is also interested in exploring other subjects such as environmental science and biology. “The design I did is called Vision. The last time I presented this piece was at Quad City Arts 2022 Chalk Art Fest. When working with chalk, all the hard work was washed away so I’m happy that it’s a little more permanent this time.

“It’s of a female’s profile with a movie projector and light emerging from the eye. Through it, I like comparing our everyday train of thought to the wheels of a grinding projector producing a narrative for our experiences. We all have our own movie. Every day we gather more information from our environment that is forever transforming the way we see things. We are all viewers to the ever-changing interaction of our inner to outer world.”

Mural by Erica Danner
  • Erica Danner: “Public art is an experience and affects how you think and feel about a space. It can comfort you or make you curious and also make you want to stay just a little bit longer. I like my work to be something you can read and enjoy from far away or also stop and have a moment with up close.

“I have been an artist my whole life and have started working on more large scale projects in the last few years. I graduated from UI with a BFA in Painting and Sculpture in 2015 and I am currently working as a tattoo artist and florist. I have a special interest in botanical, nature art and garden design and I love using bright colors and bold designs that transfer from tattoos to large scale public work.

“My design is based on the Alternating Currents theme and the idea that Davenport is not only a tough river and train city with history, but also a vibrant city for arts and music on the river. The design is focused around a big cat with lightning bolts for whiskers, which references the festival’s original AC logo with lightning bolts. One side is the winding Mississippi with both Government Bridge and Centennial Bridge and the other side is music notes in the fog to represent the festival and the arts.”

Mural by KT Sides
  • KT Sides: “I’ve been an artist all my life, experimenting with a variety of styles & themes; but the majority of my work is centered around the dualities such as life & death, day & night, etc. My works typically contain a mixture of soft, light subject matter contrasted with something harsher or darker.

“The past couple years my canvas has been wood but I have been incorporating paint back into my practice. I’ve also done installation work for a Halloween-themed event in Chicago in which a team of myself & others carved giant pumpkin sculptures as tall as 100 feet. I’ve always wanted to work on a larger scale & I think this would be a perfect opportunity to learn how to paint a mural as a beginner.

“I’m confident in my abilities to learn any medium I set my mind on. The prompt of Alternating Currents inspired me to contemplate the paradox of duality on a spectrum. I began to imagine alternate timelines or dimensions overlapping in time & space within a singular piece.

“The concept is each stripe is a different potential reality; I wanted to choose a quintessential image that screams Quad Cities as the focal point, so I chose the bridge (old reality & current) but I believe even a layering effect of a few QC staples could work in lieu of it.

Center detail with old and new I-74 bridges.

“The overall design & color would have a retro or vintage vibe, hence the polaroid photo & ‘70s style imagery. I’m imagining black & white patterns in some areas but very colorful gradiant palettes in others to differentiate the stripes. This design is slightly outside my usual realm of flora & fauna but I don’t like to limit myself to only one style of art. Linework, detail & color gradients are my strengths.

Mural by Ashley Vandy
  • Ashley Vandy: “I am a Quad Cities-based artist who earned a BFA with honors in art education from Western Illinois University. Throughout high school, I worked for the Quad City Arts Metro Arts summer program, where for two years I helped with group murals and my last year I was a senior apprentice for the mixed media program.

“Since leaving academia, I have stayed close to the arts by working for several screen-printing shops and having my own printing set up at home. Lately, I have been painting a lot with watercolors and recently participated in a plein air painting event. My design is inspired by music visualizers and both the new and old forms of the I-74 bridge.

The murals along Emerson Place, south of 2nd Street, off Pershing Avenue, Davenport.

“I wanted to make a bright and energetic piece that represents the fun of music as well as something that ties us together as a community. The background has colorful sound bars dancing around ‘neon lights’ that represent the new bridge on top, the old bridge on the bottom, and the Mississippi across the center.”