Holiday Display Challenge is proving to be a win-win-win situation

It’s a win for businesses in the three downtowns involved – Bettendorf, Davenport and Rock Island – as the brightly painted windows in a variety of holiday motifs bring people out to vote for their favorite design, and in the process, discover new shops and restaurants.

It’s a win for the artists, who are compensated for a chance to show off their unique styles and bring their names out to the public.

Verde Holiday Display Challenge
Verde restaurant in Bettendorf features an Ash Vandy holiday design

And, it’s a win for residents throughout the Quad Cities, who have an opportunity to view the holiday displays, submit votes for their favorites, and become eligible for random drawings for gift cards and other goodies, like products from participating businesses.

The Holiday Display Challenge has 93 businesses participating. Artists have been matched to 63 of them. The rest of the businesses have hired their own artists or decorated the windows themselves. The Challenge is one of several holiday promotions for Deck the Downtowns, presented by TBK Bank, and organized by the Downtown Davenport Partnership, Downtown Bettendorf Organization and Rock Island Downtown Alliance.

Alisha Espey, Director, Programs for Downtown Davenport Partnership said the program helps make the downtowns seasonal destinations. “It gives people a reason to connect to their community,” Espey said. “The downtowns are always changing. Each time you come downtown, you are likely to see something new.”

Artists had a deadline of Small Business Saturday, Nov. 25, to complete the windows. Voting runs through New Year’s Day and can be accomplished by scanning a QR code available at participating businesses or filling out a ballot.

Some businesses requested specific themes for their windows; others let the artists choose. The designs are as varied as the number of businesses.

At K&K Hardware in Bettendorf, mischievous Minions are tangled up in holiday lights in a scene painted by Heidi Sallows of Mural Soup. Just down the road, Santa offers a plate of sushi in the window at Yoso Modern Japanese in a design painted by Ash Vandy of Purple Press Studio. Another of Vandy’s designs shows a Grinchy-green hand dropping coins in a piggy bank at TBK Bank’s location.

At Circa ‘21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island, Vandy decorated the windows with key elements of the popular holiday show, “A Christmas Story,” in keeping with Circa’s current production. The window features Ralphie in his bunny pajamas, brother Randy bundled up head to toe, and the infamous Leg Lamp.

“They gave me full range,” Vandy said of Circa ’21 and The Speakeasy owners. Next door at The Speakeasy, jazzy snowmen musicians play bass and piano, in another design painted by the multimedia artist. The Moline native and Western Illinois University graduate is enthusiastic about the window display program.

“It gives residents a great opportunity to explore the downtown areas, to see what’s new in businesses and restaurants. It’s a great enrichment of the downtowns. I love public art,” Vandy said. “Anytime people are exposed to more art, just walking around the downtowns, I’m fully in support of that.”

Artists and graphic designers Liz Masterson and Jake Reeder, whose projects included Daiquiri Factory (DaqFac) and The Current Iowa in Davenport, said the project has been fun as well as given them some exposure.

“It creates a real festive environment downtown,” said Masterson. And she noted that comments from pedestrians and drivers honking their horns and offering suggestions as they pass by have created some good fun.

Reeder said collaboration with the businesses was definitely encouraged, and the couple has enjoyed getting their work out in the public. “It’s good to connect with business owners,” he said. “There’s some good networking going on.”

At DaqFac, where Masterson and Reeder painted festive holiday packages and snowflakes on the windows, Micki Conard, a manager, said the project has brought a lot of attention from passersby and customers. Foot traffic was heavy on Saturday, Nov. 18, when sunny and mild weather drew crowds to downtown Davenport for the Quad City Arts Festival of Trees Holiday Parade.

“It is a great idea,” Conard said of the Holiday Display Challenge. “The more people participate, the more fun it will be.”

Espey gives kudos to artist Atlanta Dawn, whose holiday window paintings began to show up in the in downtown Davenport in 2019.

“It kind of grew organically from there,” Espey said. “Seeing artists’ work being seen and embraced by the community is so cool to witness.”