City of Moline endorses first public art program in the QC

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The City of Moline is the first in the Quad Cities to have a formal Public Art and Placemaking Plan, since the long-range plan was adopted last week by the Moline City Council.

The $50,000 plan was funded primarily by The Moline Foundation, and was completed under the direction of Renew Moline in cooperation with the city. A nine-member Public Art Steering Committee (formed in late 2019) guided the consultant selection and recommended Designing Local, based in Columbus, Ohio, which led the process.

“The City has a rich tradition of supporting and assembling an extensive collection of public art that includes, among other things, fountains, sculptures, murals. The City has long understood the aesthetic, placemaking, and place-defining value of public art, the cultural importance of public art, and the contributions to promoting a higher quality of life for City residents that public art provides,” according to the ordinance adopted by the council.

“However, the City’s public art collection has been mostly supported and assembled informally, without a coordinating plan and set of policies,” it says. “The City, understanding the importance that public art plays in promoting a higher quality of life, defining space, and placemaking, thereby promoting broader City-wide economic development goals and objectives, desired to establish a more formal public arts program, with systems and policies to provide a financing mechanism and overall coordinating plan to promote and facilitate public art installation on public and private properties in key areas of the City.”

The adopted plan includes a vision and mission statement for the Moline’s public art program, and policies for overall administration, use of funds, art acquisition, donation, and collection management of the public art program and collection.

“We’re very excited. It was a two-year process,” Renew Moline president/CEO Alex Elias said Tuesday. “It was a lot of public engagement. It was talking with the council. We started by establishing a public art steering committee back in 2019.

Alexandra Elias

“And of course, we were not foreseeing having to deal with a pandemic in the middle of our public engagement, but we made it through that and we’re just super excited to get started on it.”

Among the first steps to implement the plan are to establish the City’s Public Art Commission, and a public art financing system to support the installation of public art on private and public properties.

The Public Art Commission will consist of seven members appointed by the Mayor, at least one of whom will be a current member of the Historic Preservation Commission, with the advice and consent of the City Council. In addition, the Mayor will designate a City employee to serve as staff liaison between the city and Public Art Commission.

“That staff liaison will work with the commission, to make a recommendation to council about the upcoming budget and what the Public Art Commission sees as opportunities and what they would need from the council to make those happen,” Elias said. “So that is a function that we would anticipate the Public Art Commission would do through an annual work plan.”

In light of the fact that the city has a new community and economic development team getting on board, she plans to help with some of the early administration of the Public Art Commission.

“I know the mayor’s thinking about establishing that and then I’ll be helping on the program administration side to kind of make sure it’s clear that every year you need to do this work plan,” Elias said, noting there is no specific budget allocation the council approved for public art.

“The Public Art Commission on its own accord can add things that it feels like are important that it wants to do, but the Public Art and Placemaking Plan lays out specific locations for public art, specific corridors for public art, and some very initial conceptual ideas for projects at those specific sites,” she said.

Renew initially recommended the city set aside $100,000 every year for public art, but they realized after conversations with many that it made more sense to leave that up to the City Council each year.

“During their annual budgeting process, they would set aside an appropriate amount that they would want to designate for public art every year,” Elias said. “So just the same way that they would look at public works projects and community and economic development projects, they would include public art in that.”

Renew first unveiled the plan to the city in late March 2021. On March 24, the Moline Plan Commission endorsed the public art plan, and commission chair Craig Mack (who’s also on the public art steering committee) commended Designing Local on the thoroughness of their work.

“By endorsing this public art policy, Moline will be the first community in the Quad-Cities to have a formal public art program,” Mack wrote to the City Council. “Diversity of the art work will inspire our residents and will draw visitors to our community.”

The city recently applied for a $150,000 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant related to the new plan. A planned $300,000 project (requiring a $150,000 local match for the grant) would include two recommendations from the 102-page public art plan, and an additional one outside its scope:

  • The first ($75,000, and not in the public art plan) is the creation of an Uptown Neighborhood Identification Sign, at 16th Street and 15th Avenue, to span over the intersection, create a neighborhood identifier in one of Moline’s historic commercial districts, new city streetscape investments and encourage neighborhood pride.
  • “15 Lights” ($150,000), identified in Moline’s Public Art & Placemaking Plan, would be a series of 15 different interactive LED lights on or adjacent to the 15th Street bridge overpass between River Drive and 4th Avenue. Located at a key gateway between the city’s National Register Commercial Historic District and River Drive, it will illuminate, enhance safety and beautify an important pedestrian corridor and may include small murals or other installations.
  • “Play at Sylvan Island” ($75,000) was identified by the community during the Public Art & Placemaking Plan outreach. It will encourage recreational use of a small island formerly used for manufacturing, now owned by Moline Parks & Recreation. This location is an important recreational area to an adjacent Hispanic community and the project would complement other initiatives to connect the community to the island.

The city will be notified next April if it will get the NEA grant, to be matched by a combination of Renew, other grants, and city funding.

“We’ve assured the city that we feel like of that $150,000 match, we could cover $50,000,” Elias of Renew said. “So we feel like it’s already off to a good start of partnership, just in applying for this grant and we’re excited about embarking on funding for projects.”

You can see the entire plan at www.renewmoline.com.

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