Take a look around downtown Rockford this week and you’ll see something truly transformational happening.

Wednesday kicks off the beginning of CRE8IV (pronounced “creative”), a special five-day festival that brings eight lead artists to create large-scale murals around downtown. From May 15 through May 19, you can catch the artists in action and then celebrate with them during daily “Block pARTy” events nearby.

While the city will, in many ways, be visually transformed during CRE8IV, this event also promises to have a lasting impact on our community. Here are just five ways public art is transforming Rockford:

  1. It Creates a Sense of Place

Public art, and murals in particular, communicate a lot about the neighborhood and the city in which they’re displayed. They communicate our values, celebrate our heritage, and even impact our moods – hopefully, inspiring a smile and a bounce in our step. The more familiar they become, the more they become landmarks and symbols of a community’s identity (like Symbol, the orange Alexander Liberman sculpture on the river). In a sense, they almost become tourist attractions unto themselves.

  1. It Visually Transforms the Cityscape

Murals add vibrancy and color to otherwise drab and uninspiring places. CRE8IV promises to bring fun, uplifting and colorful creations to some very visible locations along the State Street corridor and beneath the Jefferson Street Bridge. By late this week, there will be a new energy and vitality in downtown parking lots, along drab alleys and even under a bridge. Of course, the nightly “Block pARTies” promise to stimulate all of your senses, with visual arts, music, food vendors and fun activities for the kids.

  1. It Fuels Artistic Spirit

The arts are something everyone can participate in, and the more we’re exposed to art the more likely we are to broaden our horizons and expand our own means of creative expression. In their own way, these murals can inspire creative energy.

Art, of course, is an important part of healthy communities, and it’s long been a part of Transform Rockford’s values. That’s why there’s a renewed push to build a “cultural plan” that can help maximize the arts’ impact throughout our community.

  1. It Supports Local Artists

Artists shouldn’t have to work for free, and neither are the eight lead artists behind the CRE8IV festival murals. The money being spent on this festival is helping to continue the work of several area artists: two come from Rockford, one from Chicago and another from Sycamore.

  1. It Enhances the Downtown Experience

As crowds continue flocking to downtown Rockford, public art gives them one more way to enjoy their time here. Murals create a scenic backdrop for all sorts of activities downtown, and they become points of interest for tourists and an easy site for photo opportunities (Go ahead and Insta that!). This week’s “Block pARTies” are just one occasion in which these murals will become a means for drawing people together.


CRE8IV is produced by the Rockford Area CVB and funded, in part, by a matching grant from the Illinois Office of Tourism with support from many local organizations, businesses and individuals. To learn more about CRE8IV or to get involved, visit gorockford.com/cre8iv.

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