ROCK ISLAND — The artistic process is a journey and art takes viewers places. Just like MetroLINK, the Quad-Cities' public transit provider.
District Station, at 1975 2nd Ave., is the latest place to showcase the Q-C's arts community, as two local artists, Lori Roderick and her son Henry, have worked this week with riders and the public to create a mural to be displayed permanently at the bus station.
Since Wednesday, people have been invited to paint positive symbols of what matters to them on the 12-foot-wide-by-6-foot-high mural. The Rodericks did the design and painted the sky-blue background, silhouettes of two people in motion, a dog at lower left, several arrows, and design elements throughout. They asked community members to add symbols that meant something to them within the silhouettes, with Sharpie-like markers. That's included hearts, peace signs, crosses, flowers, butterflies, and many others.
“This is a unique opportunity to work hand-in-hand with the public as we come together to create a beautiful piece of art,” Lori Roderick said. “The riders are beyond excited to participate and very positive about representing the community and themselves.”
“Over the years we’ve worked on a number of projects to support our local artists. Thanks to Quad City Arts and Lori and Henry Roderick, we have brightened up our community space at District Station with a vibrant piece of art that represents the work of many,” MetroLINK manager of administration Jennifer Hirsch said.
In January, Lori asked Metro if they'd be interested in having public art in the downtown station. “I thought this was a beautiful space that could use some enlivening, and I wanted to get back to my public-art roots,” she said.
Metro got a $4,700 Quad City Arts grant, for materials and to pay the artists. Roderick took a week vacation from her job as associate vice president for development at Augustana, where she writes grants and oversees fundraising.
She was the first coordinator of the Q-C Arts summer Metro Arts apprenticeship program, which creates public murals throughout the area, with groups of students working with a lead professional artist.
“What's different here is, we're asking people who view it to participate in it,” Lori said of the Metro mural. “That's what's so rewarding. They have a chance to have an impact on their own space, to beautify their own space, and to be heard. We're asking something to be put in a public space for 10 or 15 years, something that's important and meaningful to them. We've asked for only positive things. We've had only respect, no negative symbols. Only the most positive expressions and these are people that have some hard stories.”
The goal is to bring art to a population that doesn't have regular access to it in an unexpected place that they frequent, creating a sense of pride and ownership, Metro said.
Among the contributions are the words “Love, Hope, Joy, Peace”; a pink ribbon as breast-cancer survivor symbol; one woman did a flower tattoo she transferred; one young man put symbols for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, since math is his favorite subject.
One young man put up a multicolored autism symbol since his mother has autism. One U.S. Army veteran put up a blue star. Another young woman who was very shy, and had a hard time coming up with a symbol, suggested a guitar, and Henry outlined a guitar, and she colored it in, Lori said.
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Another is the Rock Island school district symbol, with #41, done by Travis Hearn's cousin, in honor of the former Rocky football player (who died in 2008). That was his number, as well as the district's number.
Henry is a 24-year-old graphic designer, who'll start a graduate program this fall at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). He didn't take any art at Rock Island High School, where he's been doing substitute teaching, he said.
MICA doesn't have a club that's focused on public art and outreach. “Their professors are focused on that, but they don't have a student organization,” Henry said.
“Making art accessible right now is important", he said. "...Half the people come in and say, this is great. There's too much negativity in my daily life. This needs to happen more.”
“It's been super rewarding,” Lori said. “It's a great vacation for me; Henry can leave his mark on Rock Island.”
“These are people who don't have a lot to give, but they immediately want to give back to something like this,” she said of Metro patrons. “One guy was telling me – he lives in the west end of Davenport. He doesn't have a license right now. It takes him two hours to get here and get to work. He works for a couple of construction guys. It's a two-hour commute to get to this side of the river, yet he's taking five minutes to be part of this.”
“I think it's a chance for people to be heard, for people to make their mark,” Lori said, noting so far 75 people have participated.
Paul Esparza, a 55-year-old Silvis resident, on Wednesday, drew five electric buses on the dog, and Thursday he made five yellow submarines on a figure. “It looks good,” he said of the mural.
Esparza said Metro should do something similar for the East Moline station. Once finished, the Rock Island mural will be moved above the water fountains in the main room, Lori said.
“I find there is creativity necessary to write and think of things from different angles and be strategic,” she said of the overlap between art and fundraising. “We're also thinking creatively and strategically here. This was a chance to pull Henry into public art, creating art with people, and not just for people. He has just really blossomed in this week, interacting with hundreds of people.”
“I really do love it; it's inspirational,” said Vanessa Stewart, a transit advocate for Metro. “We have people who want to add their piece of history on it. I even did one, a butterfly under the kite.” The overall motion theme is fitting for Metro, she said.
The public is invited to contribute to the mural through 2:30 p.m. today, Friday.