Davenport statues will move to more visible location

Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 11:10 AM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — The 10 Seurat-inspired statues that lived on Davenport’s Credit Island for more than 20 years have moved to a new home in Lower Lindsay Park.

Located along the Mississippi River, east of Mound Street, Lower Lindsay provides a backdrop that reflects the setting for the original painting — Georges Seurat’s most famous.

The statues based on characters in the 1884-86 painting “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” by the French Neo-Impressionist painter were installed on Credit Island in 1998. They were one of nine community-built Riverway art projects spearheaded by the nonprofit River Action Inc., funded by corporate grants, donations and contributions from city and county governments.

The Quad-City Times reports that from the beginning, some community members criticized the site, saying Credit Island was off the beaten path and that the statues deserved a more high-profile spot such as Vander Veer Botanical Park.

But River Action’s executive director Kathy Wine stood her ground, explaining that one of the purposes of the art projects was to draw attention to river locations that are not so widely known and to give them a boost.

The statues, she said, would entice people to visit Credit Island and become familiar with its rich history as an early trading post with Native Americans, the site of one of the western-most battles in the War of 1812, and a park that, in the early 1900s, featured a carousel, penny arcade and roller coaster.

“We wanted to put them (the art projects) in places that didn’t have a lot of traction,” she said. “We wanted to open eyes to other places to be (on the river).”

And so the statues stayed on Credit Island, where they were removed from their pedestals and moved into buildings for the winter, a practice that will continue even in their new home.

They also underwent four major renovations, beginning with the first just three years after they were installed when it became clear that the fallen trees from which they were carved were subject to rot, splitting and insect damage. They were coated with a thick, Fiberglass like product, repainted and sealed.

Weather and vandals continued to take their toll, though, and the statues were refurbished twice more by adult and student artists, including those from Davenport public high schools and Augustana College in Rock Island.

But recently, with vandalism at Credit Island becoming more frequent, including a beheading, Wine became convinced the statues would be better off in a different location. They were refurbished once more, this time by Davenport artist Jean Downey, and moved by employees of the Davenport Parks and Recreation Department, who also built 12 concrete pads for the statues of the people and two dogs.

In the end, this location is best, Wine said.

The statues are visible from the heavily used Mississippi Riverfront Trail, and they join other art works already in place. These include “Waiting for the Ferry,” a bronze of two boys based on a lithograph by Davenport artist John Bloom, and “Architectural Park,” a group of sculptures whose shapes depict various Quad-City roof lines, from Victorian era homes to the wikiups used by Native Americans.

The original carving of the Seurat statues was done by Davenport artist Thom Gleich and the painting by Ted McElhiney, who oversaw the project, and Ben Sunday.

To see them today, turn south on Mound Street from East River Drive. But hurry. They will be moved indoors for winter before long.