Artist Carly Rose Marinaro looks over some of the work in the Mapping Rockford Through History exhibit on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, at City Hall, 425 E. State St., Rockford. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)
By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Inside the first-floor lobby of Rockford’s City Hall, you can walk through a slice of the city’s historic neighborhoods in just about a dozen steps or so.

A new art exhibit near the front entryway to the city’s municipal offices challenged 10 artists to create their version of a map of one of the city’s historic districts, including the Barber-Colman campus and neighborhoods such as Haight Village and Churchill’s Grove. The artwork is coupled with videography of the neighborhood and photography that showcases tight, detailed shots of each area.

“A lot of the reason I want to have art at City Hall is because people come here for the most mundane things, and things that are super unpleasant a lot of the time,” said Rhiannon Yandell, executive director and chief curator of Flaunt Productions, which put on the display. “I want them to have something beautiful and interesting to look at when they come in here.”

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The exhibit — called Mapping Rockford Through History: An Artistic View of Our City, Past and Present — will be on display through Fall ArtScene on Oct. 6.

“The show is all about Rockford, so having it at Rockford City Hall just felt like the perfect fit,” said Yandell, who previously exhibited a show at City Hall in May called Rockford Famous. It featured self portraits by prominent local artists.

The concept for the show came from artist Carly Rose Marinaro, who also created one of the maps on exhibit.

“I love the history of the old neighborhoods, and I love that Rockford is trying to rebuild a lot of these places that have deteriorated,” Marinaro said.

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Yandell, who assigned each artist a neighborhood, tasked Marinaro with capturing Churchill’s Grove. It turned out to be a perfect fit. That’s where Marinaro raised her kids, and photographer Peter J. Swanson unexpectedly captured a photo of her former father-in-law’s house to couple with the artwork.

“I love the beauty of the neighborhood,” Marinaro said. “It really is a neighborhood that stood the test of time, and people really put their energy into making their homes nice. It’s just kind of magical; a little quaint place to drive down the street.”

Curator Rhiannon Yandell poses with artist Carly Rose Marinaro and photographer Peter Swanson on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, at the Mapping Rockford Through History exhibit at City Hall. (Photo by Kevin Haas/Rock River Current)

The maps created come in a variety of mediums and techniques, from collage to pyrography and abstract work like Marinaro’s piece, which displays the neighborhood an array of color in watercolor marker.

Yandell assigned each artist to research the neighborhood, explore it in person and learn its history before creating their piece.

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The videography is by Neil Bloom of Future Memory Media and the photography is by Peter J. Swanson, who explored the neighborhoods on a bicycle with an iPhone Pro 14X. Yandell hadn’t seen the final results of the art and photos before they were turned in for the exhibit.

“I did all of these, basically, within five days because I would do three or four in a day,” Swanson said. “I wondered, ‘How are my photos going to match with artwork she’s never seen?’ It turned out perfect.”

About | Mapping Rockford Through History

Where: City Hall, 425 E. State St., Rockford

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

When: Display ends Oct. 6

Closing reception: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6

Artists: Arin Whitmore, Carly Rose, Drew Eurek, Dustin Damiani, Jaymes Fedor, Jenny Mathews, Margaret McGraw, Marsha Goodheart, Nathan J Taylor and Nick Cashmere. Photos by Peter J. Swanson and videography by Neil Bloom of Future Memory Media.

This article is by Kevin Haas. Email him at or follow him on X at @KevinMHaas or Instagram @thekevinhaas and Threads @thekevinhaas

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