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Art reflects part of who we are as a civilization. Public art can become part of the identity of a place, and can be what makes a city memorable.

Public art can include sculpture, murals, streetscape elements (specially designed public benches, trash receptacles, bike racks and creative signs); and can even include performance art. It can be any size, and virtually any material; in some cases even being designed to be temporary, such as a sand sculpture or sidewalk chalk art.

Being a tourist in most major cities often means spending time at museums and in public spaces adorned by art. Public art is becoming an important component of what makes a place — and thus a community — memorable.

Can anyone remember what was previously on the land currently occupied by Millennium Park in Chicago? Probably not. But if you mention “The Bean,” an image immediately comes to mind — and perhaps an experience of being there. Thus, a memorable place.

The Quad-Cities’ downtowns enjoy many of these features, and more are in the works. The Figge Art Museum invested in a Riverfront Vision to integrate public art into the design and development of Davenport’s riverfront.

The Moline Foundation provided funding to Renew Moline to support the development of a Public Art Master Plan and subsequent artwork that would be implemented under the plan.

Renew Moline has established a steering committee to guide the development of this plan and is currently seeking a consultant team to lead the effort. A public session to discuss art in downtown Moline will take place this winter.

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We are fortunate to live in a community that invests in art. Anyone traveling through our airport sees that the Quad-Cities values art.

Quad City Arts has many programs including “Metro Arts” that provide real-world experience for young artists, and a public sculpture program that places temporary installations in public locations throughout the Quad-Cities. The Quad-Cities is fortunate that our corporate partners actively support the development of art and art programs in our region.

Art seeks to engage the person experiencing it, either figuratively or literally. To elicit a feeling or a thought, to have a reaction to public art (positive or negative) is part of the purpose of art.

According to the American Association of Public Art, “As our society and its modes of expression evolve, so will our definitions of public art. Materials and methods change to reflect our contemporary culture. The process, guided by professional expertise and public involvement, should seek out the most imaginative and productive affinity between artist and community. Likewise, artists must bring to the work their artistic integrity, creativity, and skill. What is needed is a commitment to invention, boldness, and cooperation — not compromise.”

Art matters in the Quad-Cities: as a destination, as an investment in aesthetics, as a generator of interest and activity. Engage in art. Experience it.

Consider attending a public session as downtown Moline’s Public Art Master Plan is developed. Participate in the many art programs we enjoy. Finally, when there is an opportunity, thank the people who make these experiences possible.

Alexandra Elias of Rock Island is president & CEO of Renew Moline. After a 20-year career in government in Washington, D.C and San Diego, Calif., she returned to the Quad-Cities just in time for the coldest and snowiest winter on record.

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