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Public art arises from the ashes | RB&W District Park

Community space on the river

RB&W District Park is located on the banks of the beautiful Rock River in Rock Falls, IL, in Whiteside County. After a fire in December of 2007 destroyed 31 structures on the 17-acre site of RB&W (Reliant Fastener) Manufacturing, the landscape was bleak.

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The community was fortunate to have the foresight and vision of its hardworking citizens, employees, and elected officials. After just nine years, Rock Falls took the former RB&W/Reliant site and started the Riverside Bike & Walk Greenspace Project. The vision and commitment, collaboration, goal setting, and accountability were crucial to its success. 

By summer 2016, huge strides were accomplished along the Rock Falls riverfront, now named RB&W District Park. The green park runs parallel to the Rock River. It’s a perfect blend of city life and nature.

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Amenities for vendors and visitors   

RB&W District Park has vendor cement pads with electric hookup and a covered, lighted amphitheater with seating. The morning I visited the park, a fitness class was held on the amphitheater stage as people strolled the Sculpture Walk and sat on park seats while admiring the breathtaking river vista.

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Art in the Park Sculpture Walk is a yearly event.

The 5th Art in the Park Sculpture Walk, presented by Visit Rock Falls, is set for September 3, from 2-6 p.m. Currently, the park boasts ten sculptures, two of which are permanent. Most sculptures are available to be sold. 

The City of Rock Falls purchased “Nemesis” (above) a few years back, and “Apparition Schmoosh” was donated to the city by Charles Yost, a Chicago-based sculptor (below). 

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The eight sculptures from last year’s event are in their final days of public viewing. Several sculptures have been removed at the time of this writing, but if you can visit in the next few days, now is the time! 

Meet the sculptors.

This event gives sculptors from all over the chance to be one of the eight artists to have their work displayed all year. The winning sculptors are present to visit with the public and answer questions about their work and processes during the event on September 3.

A sculpture park is born.

Yost was very impressed with RB&W District Park while visiting five years ago. “He made a phone call to then-mayor Bill Wescott and asked if the city would consider having sculptures in the new park,” said Melinda Jones, executive director of Visit Rock Falls. “This led to the mayor and Yost visiting a sculpture park in Indiana.” 

From there, a tourism subcommittee was formed, and with help from Charles Yost, the first Sculpture Walk kicked off in 2018. The committee and Yost said it was essential to bring this event to Rock Falls so people could appreciate the arts in their community.

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Get the app.

The Sculpture Walk is featured on the Otocast app, which can be downloaded on your smartphone. The Otocast app has a map of each sculpture’s location, information on the artists, and even an audio component for learning more about each sculpture. 

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A day of art, music, and food

During the same time, Art in the Park presents the Outdoor Art Gallery, where local fine artists display and sell their work. Some artists provide demonstrations of their creative process.

Contributing to the ambiance of the arts, live music by the Rock River Jazz Band performs on the amphitheater stage for the event’s duration of 2-6 p.m. They are a 14-17 piece Jazz and Big Band Band composed of professional adult musicians and college music students.

Visitors won’t go hungry, either. Rustic Oven Wood Fire Pizza is on hand to cure anyone in your group getting “hangry.”

It’s here all year, folks.

If you cannot attend the September 3 Art in the Park event, you will be pleased to know that the ten sculptures are on display until the end of August 2023.

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Movatic bike rentals

While in the park, you’ll notice that Rock Falls participates in the Movatic Bike Share program. Once you download the Movatic app,  you are on your way to enjoying a day of riding with friends or family. 

Hopes for the future of Art in the Park

“We are hoping to expand the hours of the Outdoor Art Gallery to be able to get more artists to show their work during the Sculpture Walk,” remarked Jones.  More artists give the community and its visitors a better idea of how artists view the world. “Art is a way in which we can express that fundamentally deeper part of what it means to be human and relate to one another in not just a superficial sense,” continued Jone.

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Fun year-round at RB&W District Park

Be sure to mark your calendars for some of the events hosted at RB&W District Park.

That’s just a taste of what goes on at RB&W Park. For more events throughout the year in Rock Falls, go to the Visit Rock Falls event page

Contact information

RB&W District Park
201 E 2nd St.
Rock Falls, IL 61071

Visit Rock Falls
603 W. 10th St.
Rock Falls, IL, 61071

Phone: (815) 622-1106



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