Just in time for the Bix 7 and tonight’s free jazz festival in Lindsay Park, a new Instagrammable, selfie-worthy spot has emerged in Davenport, and it’s gorgeous.

In Lower Lindsay Park, Village of East Davenport (south of River Drive and east of Mound Street), the collection of “Sunday in the Park” sculptures has a new home, relocated from Credit Island in west Davenport. The colorful fiberglass sculptures are based on figures from the Georges Seurat masterpiece painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte” (1884-86), which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

A display on the art project shows a replica of the masterpiece Seurat painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” (photos by Jonathan Turner).

They create an art walk along the Mississippi River, set in between the “Architectural Park,” and John Bloom’s “Waiting for the Ferry” sculpture.

Kathy Wine, executive director of River Action, said Friday this was a joint venture of Davenport Parks & Recreation and River Action, to repair and restore all 12 sculptures, and move them from Credit Island to Lower Lindsay Park this week. She credited retired art teacher Jean Downey of Davenport for restoring the 22-year-old sculptures.

“This is a great site, because it’s between the John Bloom sculpture, Architectural Park, and creates an art stop for art lovers, and it’s a Channel Cat stop,” Wine said of the riverfront location.

River Action executive director Kathy Wine spoke on Friday, July 29, 2022, about the restoration and relocation of the sculptures.

Having public art on the riverfront helps create a “sense of place, a sense of identity for our community,” she said. “It educates as well as entertains. It’s also something that delights and we know that kind of investment in public art is something that will create more investment in our community. We celebrate that – we celebrate the networking and partnerships we have in the community.”

“Public art enhances the places we call home and it gives people an experience, in this case, on the Mississippi River,” Wine said. “It also provides the artists greater visibility and recognition for their work.”

Originated in 2000

The project (the first RiverWay art piece) started with Davenport artist Ted McElhiney, who oversaw the creation and production of the sculptures, placed on Credit Island in 2000, because it was an island in the river similar to La Grande Jatte in Paris for Seurat.

The sculptures were made by Thom Gleich of Davenport, with the help of Davenport Central and Augustana students who painted them with McElhiney and Ben Sunday, using techniques that were similar to Seurat’s pointillism.

Wendy Peterson of the Davenport Park Advisory Board spoke about the significance of the art project and the benefits of its new location.

“Several of the statues were vandalized, and thanks to Jean, you see them in tip-top shape today,” Wendy Peterson, member of the Davenport Park Advisory Board, said Friday.

The historical significance of the sculptures is very important, as they reflect figures in Paris at the time. She quoted the artist: “I want to make modern people move about in their essential traits, organize them on a canvas by harmonies of color.”

“Look at the variety of figures that represent what the population was like, when they went to this location west of Paris,” Petersion said. “Let’s celebrate and spread the word about what has happened here.”

“It seems to be the right place, on a body of water,” she said. “I’m so happy that it’s here. It’s beautiful – drive by, you can’t miss it. Everybody will say, what’s that? Well, come and see.”

Many months of repairs

Downey, a retired art teacher and artist, repaired many cracks in the fiberglass sculptures, and also replaced pieces that had been stolen (including a book, cane, flowers and a horn).

“It’s very exciting. I’ve been out here a couple days and the positive people coming by is great,” Downey said. “I’ll worry about them. Maybe I’ll have to come down here and sleep with them overnight. This is their first night in the public. We’ve dealt with the worst so far.”

Retired Davenport art teacher Jean Downey worked for months on restoring the fiberglass sculptures.

Downey worked on the meticulous restoration for months at Credit Island, including new paint and varnish, and replacing the head of one sculpture that had been beheaded.

Among vandalism at Credit Island was the little girl sculpture was taken and put in a bathroom, found later by a city worker, she said. Downey has seen the Seurat painting in person, which she called “amazing.”

“Sunday” also was immortalized on the Broadway stage by composer Stephen Sondheim, who collaborated with book writer and director James Lapine to create the 1984 musical, “Sunday in the Park With George.”

Other RiverWay art includes:

  • Navigation Steps at Leach Park, Bettendorf.
  • East Moline Rapids at The Quarter, East Moline.
  • Mississippi Tree of Life at Sunset Park, Rock Island.
  • Peach Garden at Campbell’s Island, East Moline.
  • The Gathering Point at Arsenal Island.
  • Nature Spiral at Illiniwek Park, Hampton.
  • Sylvan Island Fountain at Sylvan Island, Moline.
  • Stepping Stones at Donnybrook Creek, Rapids City.

Tonight at Lindsay Park is the free “Heights of the Era” live music festival, from 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. To learn more on River Action, click HERE.