You can read our most recent printed newsletter below! As you can see from the cover image, this year Quad City Arts celebrates 50 years of making the arts accessible in the Quad Cities. In this unique year, it seems fitting for us to celebrate! We worked hard to make meaningful adjustments to serve our mission and provide even more accessibility to the arts. Most of this year's focus was placed on shifting programs virtually as we remain committed to the health, safety, and vitality of our region. This year, we have a way to share all our news digitally through our blog, support artists by selling artwork online, and provide quality performance arts materials through a free platform for educators.
During this difficult year, we continue to serve our mission, because we have witnessed the life-changing power of the arts. We've seen it through our digital Chalk Art Fest, by providing a creative platform for our community, by our Metro Arts Apprentices beautifying our community, and by our community educators embracing the Visiting Artist Series Educational Resources. We are also seeing a record number of people turning to arts and entertainment for comfort, to pass time, to try something new, etc.
The arts may be more important now than ever. This year, we are unable to host our signature fundraiser, Festival of Trees, which makes it challenging to raise the needed dollars to support our mission and programs. Please consider giving to support our Festival of Trees Holiday Special and Day of Giving at www.qcfestivaloftrees.com/gift. Because of your support, Quad City Arts is able to bring artists into classrooms, inspire young people to pursue a career in the arts, pay artists for their work, and make the Quad Cities a more beautiful place to live.
For over 46 years, dancers, actors, singers, musicians, and authors have traveled from across the United States—and occasionally from across the world—for a week in residence with Quad City Arts through our longstanding Visiting Artist Series program. The resulting performances reach tens of thousands of students each season.
When coronavirus precautions made it impossible for artists to visit students in person, we decided to bring the artists, their talents, their performances to students through a multimedia collection: The Visiting Artist Series Educational Resources project. The website offers content from professional artists and ensembles, including brief demonstration videos, study guides, workshop-style videos, and more, all coordinated by Quad City Arts. Each video is subtitled in English and Spanish, allowing a broad audience to access our Educational Resources. This collection of resources stands in for the planned in-person educational residency activities for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.
Many of the artists included in the Educational Resources site were originally scheduled for an in-person residency in the Quad Cities for this season of the Visiting Artist Series.
The series’ change from in-person residency activities to an online resource center for teachers and parents is not only safe for everyone involved, it allows our artists in residence to present brief videos or documents that complement the classroom curriculum, and it broadens access.
In a typical season, we serve schools in over a dozen districts in both Iowa and Illinois. For our 2019-2020 season, we served 14 districts, which is a high point for us. The limit on serving more districts and more schools, more students, has always been about the logistics of getting artists to area schools within the constraints of the daily school schedule.
The series is no longer limited to performances in a school space during class hours; this exclusive content from 11+ artists is available to students at any school in the area at any time.
Now that we are moving to an online model, the series is accessible to wherever students and the internet are -- public and private schools, homeschooling groups, even non-traditional schooling sites like detention centers and hospitals. Teachers, students, and parents can access performing artists' resources on any device connected to the internet, anytime, anywhere.
Another benefit of this model is that schools can access all of the artists instead of picking to host just one or two for their students. The entire season of artists “in residence” with the Visiting Artist Series is available, from musicians to actors, dancers to storytellers.
We hope that you will find something enlightening and delightful in the work of these artists and welcome your feedback. Enjoy!
Since its beginning in 1974, the Visiting Artist Series has always been a unique cultural asset in the Quad Cities. The series has engaged Quad City residents of all ages in quality arts experiences with professional performing artists. Artists of various disciplines present demonstrations, workshops, and master classes at preK sites, elementary, intermediate, and high schools as well as college campuses and community organizations.
Many public places throughout the Quad-Cities are more beautiful and colorful because of Quad City Arts.
The late executive director Lloyd Schoeneman (who died at 49 in 2001 from cancer) was the driving force behind our public sculpture program. In the 1990s, Lloyd introduced the concept of community-built art to the Quad-Cities, organizing design charrettes which resulted in the Navigation Steps at Leach Park (Bettendorf) the Nature Spiral at Illiniwek Park (Hampton) and the Lindsay Park Architectural Sculpture Park (Village of East Davenport.) He also was administrator for the “Face the River” public sculpture project in the area.
Schoeneman led the concept for an interactive and educational park, with a series of design meetings facilitated by Quad City Arts. Nearly 50 area historic preservationists, businesspeople, recreation enthusiasts, and river activists came together over a two-year period to develop the community-built project along the parkway south of the Village of East Davenport.
Lori Roderick and John Gere were its primary designers, with Roderick serving as the project's lead artist. The architectural sculpture park was dedicated and presented to the City of Davenport on May 22, 1999.
We have formally facilitated leasing and installation of public sculpture in the area since 2002, starting with the city of Davenport – which now has nine outdoor sculptures on permanent display. The city of Rock Island has participated in the program every year since 2007 and Bettendorf, since 2008.
Davenport’s began 18 years ago, with plans to establish a cultural corridor along the Mississippi River on 2nd Street, as the city saw public art as a way to draw attention to the developing cultural scene. The year-long rental of sculptures by regional artists and facilitated by Quad City Arts, continued in Davenport through 2011.
In 2007, The Downtown Rock Island Arts and Entertainment District embraced public sculpture by the renting three sculptures, funded by the City of Rock Island and placed in the downtown area. In addition to a growing number of murals, new shops, loft apartments and Riverview condos, the sculptures became a vital component of the city’s strategic plan objective to include the creation, performance, sale, and public display of art.
Moline Centre Partners joined program in 2007, by renting five sculptures for their downtown. With three of the Quad-Cities participating, a brochure was designed and marketed through the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Moline stayed in the program for two years, until the Moline Centre Partners dissolved; Renew Moline has since gotten involved.
The City of Bettendorf joined the program in 2008 and has continued to select and rent at least three sculptures per year ever since. Bettendorf has purchased five pieces for the city’s permanent collection.
The Davenport RiverCenter began leasing sculptures with the 2012-13 program year and then opted to use the “rent to own” clause to purchase two works.
“While difficult to measure the impact, public art conveys that the people who live in a city that invests in art are invested in their community,” said Dawn Wohlford-Metallo, Quad City Arts’ visual arts director. “When people see art in a community, they know that the city leaders have a designed a vibrant place to live, where people want to spend time. Where there is art, there is likely to be other recreational amenities” she said.
“It also shows that the community does not have a transient population, but is one that is invested in the people, open to new ideas and willing to take risks. In addition, a city enriched with public art, and one that offers cultural amenities, is a city that attracts businesses. When Volkswagen chose Chattanooga, the arts environment was a deciding factor.”
Public art is a way to develop a downtown into a cultural destination, Wohlford-Metallo said. “People may come to see a sculpture, then stop and eat at a restaurant, shop or enjoy other cultural offerings.”
To date, 164 sculptures have been leased through the Public Sculpture Program.
This June, six sculptures in Bettendorf and four in Rock Island were replaced with new ones, featuring colorful, creative and whimsical work from artists throughout the Midwest. Each city chose to keep one sculpture from last year’s selection for another year.
Renewing Moline with art
For the first time, Renew Moline has joined the effort, in sponsoring sculptures.
On the riverfront near 15th Street is “Swans On the Marsh” by V. Skip Willits of Camanche, Iowa, and at the Kone building near Bass Street Landing in Moline is the blue “Metamorphosis” by Hilde DeBruyne of Cumming, Iowa.
DeBruyne describes her Moline piece as “An organic, contemporary, streamlined sculpture in steel. It refers to the Metamorphosis of butterflies. Butterflies are a symbol of transformation, because of their impressive process of metamorphosis. By observing butterflies, we can relate to our own lives: Each of us transforms through multiple stages in our life: moments of growing pains, times of hunger and vulnerability followed by moments of tremendous energy, growth, wonder and amazement.”
“Public art is an important feature of a vibrant downtown,” said Alexandra Elias, President/CEO of Renew Moline. “We are happy to welcome these works to our riverfront experience.”
The City of Moline was in the planning stages of a Downtown Moline Public Art Master Plan when the pandemic limited public interaction. The plan is on hold until such time as the public can be re-engaged in the process. In the meantime, the Public Sculpture Program offers a convenient opportunity to bring joy to the community through public art.
All of the sculptures are for sale and can be purchased by individuals, businesses or the city for permanent installation after June of the following year. And they’re very popular sites for people to take selfies.
The sculptures are leased and on public display for a one-year period (each artist gets a $1,200 stipend), at which point they may be purchased for permanent installation or be replaced with new sculpture.
Renew Moline’s latest art project focuses on a dilapidated brick building, right off the 74 bridge on Moline’s riverfront, all about possibility. Artist Brandon Nees is thrilled about bringing that surging potential to colorful life.
The 25-year-old Davenport artist, who graduated from Moline High School, has been chosen to create a $10,000 public mural on nine panels of the boarded-up ground floor of the Spiegel Building, 200 20th St., just north of River Drive.
Renew Moline partnered with the City of Moline and Quad City Arts to issue a call for entries, resulting in 28 submissions from artists around the Midwest. Renew’s Public Art Steering Committee evaluated 20 of the proposals and chose three for further consideration.
On Sept. 8, Nees’ proposed concept was endorsed by the Project Management Team (PMT), a public/private partnership between Renew Moline and the city to offer guidance and input on downtown projects. Ald. David Parker, a member of the PMT, said that he thought the street-art style proposal was “perfect” for the building and expressed his excitement to see the project complete.
“This proposal is unique,” said Kevin Maynard, Quad City Arts executive director and Public Art Steering Committee member. “There really isn’t another public art project like it in the Quad-Cities. We are excited to see how art can elevate this building aesthetically and economically.”
It is expected to be created in Nees’ home studio and installed on the building in mid-October 2020.
New sculptures in Rock Island, Bettendorf
In 2020, Quad City Arts coordinated installation of 12 sculptures with the financial support of Rock Island and Bettendorf, Rock Island Parks & Recreation, Bettendorf Library Foundation and Ascentra Credit Union, showing their commitment to the cultural and artistic vitality of our community.
Courtney Lyon of Ballet Quad Cities loves “Growing Up” – at the foot of the Centennial Bridge in Rock Island, created by Ben Pierce of Cape Girardeau. Mo. It was installed at the visitor’s center in Rock Island last year and will remain for another year.
“I see it every day when I drive into Rock Island for work,” said Lyon, artistic director of the ballet company. “Even though my mind is typically already busy with what will be happening during the day, I always notice the sculpture. I instantly recognize that my car is crossing an area where civilization abruptly meets nature. It snaps me out of my ‘work’ brain, and it makes me blink and look around and come into the present.
“The sculpture stands strong and tall, circles filled with bricks, triangles filled with blue. I think about the artist and their choice of putting the blue water in the angular container, and the red bricks in the smooth container,” she said. “ It seems so simple that by switching what seems natural, something that could have been normal and expected becomes unique and unforgettable. Would I have thought to do that?
“I realize that I just crossed over the Mighty Mississippi. Even though we built a bridge to cross it, and flood walls to protect us, the river is far more powerful than we are,” Lyon said.
“Delightfully, the blue of the sculpture pops! Sometimes it is the brightest thing around as I come off the bridge if the skies are grey, the water flat, the trees bare.”
Promoting local art for 19 years
Dawn Wohlford-Metallo has worked at Quad City Arts since 2001.
After studying art at Truman State University and Arizona State, she attended the University of Colorado and earned an MFA in sculpture in 1988.
Wohlford-Metallo moved back to her hometown in Iowa in 1998 and she became visual arts director at Quad City Arts, overseeing two art galleries and the public sculpture program.
Additionally, she serves on the Acquisitions Committee for the Figge Art Museum and teaches papermaking at Gilda’s Club. After caring for her home and family, Wohlford-Metallo creates art in the wee hours of the night. She consistently exhibits her work in regional exhibitions.
Quad City Arts typically reaches 350,000 art participants a year and 5,000 artists of all disciplines. We are dedicated to the growth and vitality of the Quad-City region through the presentation, development, and celebration of the arts.
The organization envisions a vibrant, dynamic region where artists, residents, and visitors are engaged in diverse opportunities in the arts and humanities.
While there are very few Q-C artists that do large sculptures, one is featured this year – Moline’s David Zahn, whose “Time Passes” is at Build to Suit on Bettendorf’s State Street, near the Waterfront Convention Center.
“The human form has always been a major element in my work,” he said. “Integrating images of people and blending them with abstract forms has been a long-lasting direction in my art. I strive to create a feeling of timelessness and a strong emotional element in each piece.”
Other Bettendorf pieces include:
Rock Island public art includes:
Hampton Cranes of Bettendorf donated its time and services to install the public sculptures again, which can cost up to $30,000 each to purchase.
To view all the local sculptures along with driving directions, visit: Public Sculpture Program
Continuing to work as a facilitator and connector
Quad City Arts offers services to local organizations and businesses interested in large-scale mural projects or sculptures, by through its connections with artists all over the country.
When the CEO of Genesis Medical Center in Davenport had a vision for a sculptural fountain as part of the landscaping and grand entrance to the new East Campus hospital addition, their staff searched for the right sculptor for over a year before approaching Quad City Arts for help.
We have the resources and connections to sculptors across the nation; wrote a call for proposals and found the perfect sculptor in a matter of weeks.
The Genesis East renovation and expansion was finished in 2018 at a cost of $150 million. At the hospital’s main entrance (which includes waterfalls) is Tempest Ballet, a stainless-steel sculpture that spirals upward. Nearly 10 feet in height, the sculpture was created by Amie Jacobsen, a multi-faceted artist and designer who lives in Kansas City.
Jacobsen earned her MFA in illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she also taught in the foundations, illustration, and e-learning departments. Her work includes metal sculptures, artisan furniture, décor, and painting.
Jacobsen wrote that the sculpture’s title was “inspired by the form itself. I thought it reminded me of the wind swirling, like in a storm, which is where 'tempest' came from. But it's also graceful and coordinated, like a dance.”
To see what public sculptures in the area are currently on display, visit quadcityarts.com/public-sculpture.
Just as last year was unusual for the Quad City Arts Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship Program, the summer of 2020 also was unique.
Far fewer students – ages 15 to 21 – participated in fewer projects, and they wore face coverings and practiced social distancing. That does not mean that the two outdoor murals and improvisational comedy they created were any less meaningful, important or impressive.
“Every Metro Arts site has a collection of masks available, if the student either doesn’t have one or has forgotten theirs that day, so we can make sure we’re following the social-distancing guidelines and keeping everybody safe,” Quad City Arts executive director Kevin Maynard said, noting the lead artists also wore masks.
“I don’t think that our social distancing guidelines have hindered the process or progress on any of these projects,” he said. “It has limited the number of apprentices. Most sites typically have 10 apprentices and a lead artist, but with the (Illinois) guidelines in phase 3 being no groups larger than 10, we did have to cut an apprentice from each project.”
Compared to 2019, when there were about 90 apprentices doing projects throughout the Quad-Cities in the spring, summer and fall, this year about 30 area youth were provided with five-week paid summer apprenticeships.
These apprentices create projects that positively impact our community: a mural in Moline, improv comedy, and a mural in Rock Island. These projects were made possible through support from the City of Rock Island, Friendship Manor, Modern Woodmen of America, The Moline Foundation, and Renew Moline.
Since summer 2000, Metro Arts has provided youth ages 15-21 with paid summer apprenticeships in various arts disciplines. They work together in groups to complete projects that enhance the community through the arts. Participants learn artistic techniques and applications of their genre while developing personally and professionally.
This program allows young adults to develop new career and artistic skills, build self-confidence and creates a sense of accomplishment as they work under the supervision and mentorship of professional artists. Their mentors are accomplished, local artists who are passionate about teaching and encouraging creativity.
The first Metro Arts in 2000 was modeled after the successful arts-education and job-training program Gallery 37 in Chicago, which launched in 1991 with a concept that spread to cities across the nation.
Metro Arts 2000 was headed by visual artist and project coordinator Lori Roderick. A former artist-in-residence at Quad City Arts, she supervised a professional faculty of five, along with 69 students from 21 area high schools that year. Students (who then were paid $5.50 an hour) had to list two references, but didn't need to have any previous job experience, and there were no artistic criteria.
That first year (like in 2020), the projects included improvisational comedy and painted murals.
It also included a ceramic tile mural and show choir, and subsequent years the dazzlingly diverse program has featured more murals, poetry, dance, jazz, playwriting, sculpture, creative writing, voice, mosaics, graphic novel, percussion, micro-fiction, graphic design, mixed media, and photography.
Since the beginning, Metro Arts has served 1,140 students and produced 96 varied projects.
“This year, we obviously knew it would be a lot smaller – there were no spring projects with the pandemic going on,” said lead artist Sarah Robb of Davenport, who led both new murals, at 1516 6th Ave., Moline, and on three sides of the Friendship Manor maintenance building, at Rock Island’s 11th Street and 21st Avenue.
In her 14th summer leading Metro Arts, she worked with eight young artists daily in Moline in the morning for four hours and nine in Rock Island in the afternoon.
If painting close together, the students were required to wear masks or face shields, and unlike previous years, did not share paint or buckets with water to rinse brushes. Masks were provided in case students forget to bring one, as well as hand sanitizer, water and sunscreen.
A classy, colorful landscape
The mural in Moline is in the courtyard on 6th Avenue next to La Primavera, on the wall of Bajas Classy Resale, a women’s clothing store across the street from the mural Robb led in 2018 for the Child Abuse Council (which was supported in part by Quad City Arts’ Arts Dollars, but wasn’t a Metro Arts project).
The new mural (called “It’s a New Day”) is the first Metro Arts project in the city of Moline, supported by Renew Moline and The Moline Foundation. Specifically, The Tom and Karen Getz Memorial Fund was established at The Moline Foundation to support and promote civic pride, youth development and the arts. Tom and Karen served and led innumerable community organizations with energy, commitment, and heart.
“It has a positive message during this time – hopeful, a lot of color,” Robb said. The students at both locations have been “troupers” and seamlessly adjusted to the circumstances. The Moline mural will have a ribbon-cutting Friday morning.
“Once they’re working, they’re in their own world,” Robb said. “We just look different because we have masks on. They all get it, have been cooperative and thankful they still have the opportunity.”
“The best part is the community of other artists, and we get to know their style and connect it to make one piece,” said senior Moline apprentice Rebecca Quick, a 21-year-old Moline High alum who attends Monmouth College. “We’re sweating like crazy, but keeping our distance and we’re making it work.”
“There have been a lot of changes due to the virus, but obviously things aren’t that different,” said Kamryn Linskey, a 2020 Sherrard High grad who last year did Metro Arts at the MLK Center in Rock Island. “It’s definitely the same amount of fun as last year. Working with Sarah, it’s been awesome.”
Since Friendship Manor is a larger project, which involved nearby Olivet Baptist Church, Robb took a break and started another five weeks in late July with a new group of a dozen apprentices to finish the building.
“That was by design, because it is such a large project, we split it up into essentially groups and two projects,” Maynard said, noting stipends for the apprentices are $500 each; $750 for the senior apprentice, and $2,000 for lead artists.
“Most of the cost for the mural goes into the labor and materials. We do have a small administration fee, which is around 9 percent of the total cost. We typically ask building owners to come up with some of those funds,” he said, noting they typically pay at least $4,000 and an average mural costs around $10,000, based on size and number of apprentices.
In 2018, Robb led the painting of the Child Abuse Council wall facing 6th Avenue in downtown Moline between 15th and 16th streets and a new mural for Moline’s Floreciente neighborhood at 8th Street and 6th Avenue.
The CAC mural caught the attention of Pam Fisher, who owns the Bajas building, which led to the creation to that new mural. Robb in 2018 also helped a friend and fellow muralist, Heidi Sallows, paint the wall outside Fred & Ethel’s antique store at a new Rock Island pocket park at 30th Street and 14th Avenue.
She first partnered with Sallows in 2010 on the huge sea-themed wall of Cabanas at 2120 4th Ave., Rock Island. The two led several 2019 Metro Arts murals throughout the Q-C, including at the Quad City Symphony office at 4th and Brady streets, Davenport, and street murals throughout Bettendorf.
Bringing the funny outdoors
This summer’s three-student improv comedy group met daily at Schwiebert Park in Rock Island and was led by Erin Mahr, a Rocky grad who did improv with Metro Arts in 2002.
“So it’s fun to be on the other side now,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t think I’d ever teach it. I had so much fun learning improv games at the time, and I thought it was a great opportunity to earn money while learning a fun skill like improv. I enjoyed ComedySportz, learning the different games and skills there.”
Mahr was in ComedySportz from 2010 until last year, when it disbanded, and is a performer with G.I.T. Improv.
This year, with students masked, “It’s been an interesting year,” she said. Mahr was co-lead artist last year with Patrick Adamson, at Rock Island’s former Establishment Theatre, now owned by the Center for Living Arts. They’re outside this year, partly to be safer health-wise.
“In improv, you have to work more with body language, being able to hear and understand each other,” Mahr said. “The apprentices have done a wonderful job of adapting and making the most of their experience, given the situation.”
Improv comedy translates to everyday life skills, she said. “It’s great for public speaking; it’s a great confidence builder, even just social skills.”
“What I enjoy most about the improv program is the fact that I get to do something I love every day, and I also get to make new friends that otherwise wouldn’t have existed,” said Teddi White, 18, a new Bettendorf High grad in her second year of Metro Arts. “It’s a little difficult working with masks for a few reasons. It gets very hot very quickly, it’s harder to enunciate, and it’s harder to tell other’s facial expressions.”
“I love improv because it’s really flexible and free,” she said, noting she first did improv about eight years ago in a class at Davenport Junior Theatre and has been to multiple ComedySportz shows.
A virtual showcase
Covid also forced changes in how Metro Arts presented its annual showcase – virtually this year, which was on July 9 (on Facebook and the Quad City Arts YouTube channel).
“In a typical year, we’d have every apprentice in the same room, on stage, with their friends and family, talking about the projects they’ve completed and showing some pictures,” Maynard said. “That’s not an option this year, so we’re bringing 3-4 people from each group to talk about their project. We would bring on everybody, but we are limited in how many we can have in the program we use, at one time.”
There is an additional Metro Arts project planned this fall in downtown Davenport.
Will it even be a real holiday season without the beloved Festival of Trees?
The Quad City Arts tradition and largest fundraiser of the year planned to celebrate its 35th year in November, with “Believe,” but the unbelievable year of 2020 and Covid-19 forced us to re-imagine the in-person festival, as many events have been canceled throughout the year.
In July, we made the difficult decision not to host the 35th-annual Kwik Star Festival of Trees in person due to uncertainty and concern for the safety of volunteers, staff, and community as a whole regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. The Holiday Parade and all other special events will also not be held this year.
This decision was led by Festival of Trees volunteer management team with the full support of the Quad City Arts’ staff and board of directors. “This truly was a difficult decision,” executive director Kevin Maynard posted on Facebook. “The team worked this from every angle, but in the end, we kept coming back to the health and safety of our community.
“It takes 3,000 volunteers to make the Festival of Trees happen,” he said. “Over 30,000 attend annually. Thousands crowd the streets of Davenport for the Holiday Parade. It will be missed this year but will come back stronger next year.”
In lieu of an in-person event this year, we are partnering with KWQC to present a fun-filled one-hour Holiday Special to air on Saturday, Nov. 21st during the traditional parade hour, and are asking the community to partner for a Day of Giving on the same day.
The TV special event will consist of coverage from past parades, Center Stage acts, messages from staff, volunteers, and community members as well as a message of hope from Santa himself.
Our goal is to set up matching donors and sponsors who will help make donations go farther. We know VIP Baskets are a crowd favorite at Festival of Trees, so they will be returning this year, but with a new twist. We invite the community to join us for this special day of support and celebration that we hope will fill everyone’s hearts with holiday cheer.
In addition, there will be select designs and items available for sale at the Quad City Arts Rock Island Gallery (1715 2nd Ave.), along with other favorites like the Honor Tree and Isabel Bloom ornaments available for purchase. We know many will still want to commemorate this year in their collection and honor loved ones with a personalized ornament. Interested in being a designer? Visit qcfestivaloftrees.com.
Festival of Trees – the largest fundraiser of the year for the organization -- started in 1986 with a small group of volunteers that believed in the impact of the arts. They set out on a mission to support bringing high-quality artists right here to the Quad-Cities, inspiring a generation of students and families through access to the arts.
That first year, their purpose was twofold: First, be a community celebration of the holiday season. Second, raise funds for the Visiting Artist Series, which first began in 1974 as its own organization.
Over the years, Festival of Trees has not only continued to be a major supporter of the Visiting Artist Series and Quad City Arts, but it’s also become a staple in the Quad-Cities as the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season, bringing together hundreds of sponsors and tens of thousands of supporters to experience the magic of the festival at Davenport’s RiverCenter.
Festival has raised over $5 million in support of local arts and has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Events in North America. It typically takes 3,500 volunteers, 650 designers, 3,500 CenterStage entertainers and over 100 sponsors to make Festival of Trees happen each year. More than 100,000 people experience Festival of Trees annually, making it one of the largest community attractions in the Quad-Cities.
Longtime volunteer loves the Festival
It's been a passion of former longtime Moliner Marty Huber since the start.
She and her husband Don lived in Moline 53 years, and they built their dream retirement home five years ago on 60 acres in Kalispell, Montana, to be close to their younger son and his family. They moved there full-time last year; she was a consultant for the 2019 Festival, and Huber planned to return to see Festival of Trees this year.
She got involved in the event because of the Visiting Artists program. In the mid-1980s, Huber served as Cultural Arts Chairman for the Moline Schools PTA, which would give a small donation to the Visiting Artists.
Huber wanted to find out more about the program and she started volunteering to plan and be part of Festival of Trees before the first event in 1986, which brought in a visit from legendary actor Cary Grant (who suffered a stroke and died in Davenport, at age 82).
“Why? Because of the Visiting Artists, that has been my whole thing,” Huber -- who co-chaired Festival in 2004 -- said recently. “I believe in the project, the program, how it gets artists in the schools. If there’s a kid you can make excited by some form of the arts, rather than the rectangular thing he holds in his hand, that’s the goal.”
“We’ve never hosted artists in our home, but we’ve driven them all over the place, ran errands for them,” she said. “We all have foundations and charities we believe in. No matter where we go, for our Quad-City community, it’s a fantastic thing.” In Montana, they have seen some outstanding artist programs, but “not on the same caliber of Quad City Arts,” Huber said.
“We aren’t really big donors, but we do what can do to offer support here and there,” she said. Huber did a bit of everything for the Festival over the years, including co-chairing the gift shop for 11 years, what used to be the Zoo Tree (with stuffed animals) for five years, and she was an on-floor designer, and got a few ribbons for her designs.
Because she had a background in retail sales, she gravitated toward the gift shop. For each item she and her co-chair bought for the shop, someone had to open the box it was in, mark it for price, re-box it, store it until the time of the festival, open the box, then put the item on display. At the end of festival, an inventory had to be made, and items that did not sell had to be re-boxed, put on a truck and stored until next year. Another job Huber had was being in charge of the Zoo Tree, now the Toy Tree.
The plan was to collect 1,500 plush animal toys, put them on a 25-foot tree as an attraction and then at the end of the festival, distribute the animals to children in need in the area, with the help of its sponsor.
Through the years, Huber also served on the festival management team, the judging team and worked on the parade.
“Every sponsor I’ve had, they believed in Quad City Arts,” Huber said. “Everybody is in the same kettle of fish this year, with their events closed, they’re going to pick and choose.”
In past years, she has treasured seeing the creativity of Festival, “seeing the sparkle, seeing all the designs on the floor -- from small ornaments, stockings, doors, hearth and home, room – I’ve done most all of them,” Huber said of designs, noting one year she was part of having a red tractor on the floor. “We got a tractor group from the parade, and talked them into doing a room, and walked out with a first-place room design ribbon.”
She has been among at least three volunteers who have worked 30-plus years for the event, including Pat Wohlford (who’s married to artist Bill Wohlford and daughter Dawn is Quad City Arts visual arts director) and Carolyn Hamilton.
“One of the things we all say about it, it’s the people,” Huber said of why they volunteered. “Maybe you don’t see them much during the year, but we come together for the month of November. It was hard last year not being there. When you move, you move.”
“It’s a precarious position to be in,” she said of this year’s uncertainty. “The main concern is for the safety of ourselves, our guests, and our visitors. It’s the friendships. I have some really good friends with Festival.
“We’ve been in it through thick and thin. It’s been fun – it’s been challenging, been rewarding,” Huber said. In past years, she noted: “A lot of my friends, they would say, ‘you’re still doing Festival?’ Yeah, Quad City Arts, the Visiting Artist program is still going, still needs help. I might not do as much, you never say never. I’m not going to quit, even though I’m thousands of miles away.”
Passionate about the parade and arts
Erin Platt of Davenport has been involved with the Festival of Trees Holiday Parade since its inception.
In 1992, Quad City Arts started the parade and she wrote articles for the Festival Times newspaper insert to gain additional community involvement for her resume. Platt interviewed the first parade director, Donna Dobbs-Goldberg, about producing a parade of that magnitude, and wrote on how the helium balloons were constructed.
“I was so excited on parade day itself to see it come to life. There was so much enthusiasm surrounding it in the community,” Platt recalled. “I watched from the sidelines as the helium balloons, bands, floats, and dance squads went by the cheering crowds. A light freezing rain started to fall toward the end, and I was very relieved the balloons had made it through the route without incident because – as I learned during my interview with the balloon company – a heavy enough ice pellet could potentially cause damage to the fabric.”
She helped compile the script for the hour-long KWQC-TV6 live broadcast, which Platt went on to do every year since. That entails making sure every single parade entry has key information included, so that the anchors can talk about it as it appears on the TV screen.
“I typically turn over the script early in the week so that the anchors and producers have time to study it and become more familiar with the entries by Saturday. On parade day, I monitor the entry staging area to get a visual of the entries before the broadcast starts to be able to relay it to the producers,” she said.
“Most people don’t realize that what they see on their television screen during a live broadcast is not necessarily what the anchors and other production team members see due to the large number of monitors and camera angles needed for the broadcast,” Platt said. “One year I was frantically running down the street and shouting into my walkie talkie, ‘Where is Underdog!?!?’
“The units got unintentionally swapped coming out of the gate, and while the cartoon character’s balloon script was showing up next, there was no giant Underdog to be found in our view,” she said. “I also can serve as a relay between the production truck and the route management team to speed up or slow down the parade to fill time going into or coming out of commercial break.”
“There are hundreds of volunteers tirelessly handling the behind-the-scenes details to bring the parade and the entire Festival of Trees to life for our community,” Platt said. “I have an enormous sense of pride being involved with something of this magnitude. We’re elevating arts funding but in such a way that brings joy to families, boosts our economy, and shows off our region by attracting backyard and out-of-town tourists alike.”
Quad City Arts engages more than 350,000 people in the community with nearly 400 quality arts performances and activities annually. We take the art to the people by presenting performing, community and visual arts opportunities in our bi-state, six-county region.
The Festival all started with that group of people who believed it was possible, and they chose the theme for this year, “Believe,” in January 2020, not knowing what the next several months had in store, but we are invested in continuing to believe in the mission of Festival of Trees as a community event and fundraiser for Quad City Arts.
With that in mind, we hope to bring the spirit of Festival of Trees to the community this year through this one-day special event in support of the arts. The health and wellness of our community is, above all else, our first priority and we truly believe that the spirit of Festival of Trees will be preserved this year through community connection and a commitment to supporting the arts.
Because of the public’s support, Quad City Arts is able to bring artists into classrooms, inspire young people to pursue a career in the arts, pay artists for their work and make the Quad-Cities a more beautiful place to live.
On this Day of Giving Nov. 21, we are inviting the community to come together to share a little bit of holiday cheer and give from the heart in support of the arts.
The Quad City Arts Visiting Artist Series has been an inspiring, educational component of our sprawling community outreach since it launched in 1974.
Through the generosity of our supporters and funding partners (especially Festival of Trees since 1986), we’ve been able to bring in over 700 artists, 450 residencies, 10,200 school visits, more than 420 concerts, and almost 2.7 million reached.
Winner of the 1999 William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence, from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, this nationally recognized residency program has brought distinguished artists and ensembles to Scott, Clinton and Muscatine counties in Iowa, and Henry, Mercer and Rock Island counties in Illinois.
“For many years, the core programming for the Visiting Artist Series was the all-school assembly, where the whole school gathered in the gym or auditorium for a 45-minute performance,” said Margot Day, who oversees the program for Quad City Arts.
“While that’s still an option for our artists in residence, we’re seeing more options for master classes and workshops from our artists, and interest in other types of artist engagements, like lectures and meet-and-greets,” she said.
“Most artists will tell us toward the end of the residency that they wish there was a program like this when they were growing up,” Day said. “They can see the benefits for the students and the community. A few artists tell us that they remember a school visit by a performing artist, and the impact it had on them as students and performers. It’s a really gratifying response for us to receive.”
“I have had the pleasure of being present when people (young children through nursing home residents) had the unique experience of witnessing, not merely viewing, but being in the room with highly acclaimed artists as they shared their artistry,” said Carmen Darland, CEO of Quad City Arts from 2008 to 2018.
“In schools, the performing artists explained how excellence is achieved (persistently hard work, determination, believing in yourself and never giving up). This message crosses every aspect of our lives, beyond the arts,” she said.
Quad City Arts also convenes artists, and those who value their experiences with diverse genres of artistic endeavor, in numerous ways. Participants (visual artists showing in the galleries, Metro Arts students, chalk art participants) get to explore their talent in a supportive way that encourages future appreciation if not participation.
Darland said Quad City Arts consistently has showcased positive aspects of creative life locally and the visual and performing arts to various segments of the population who might not otherwise encounter such opportunities.
A personal Visiting Artist highlight for her was when multiple Grammy winner Nnenna Freelon was in town for a two-week residency and was in great demand. Her schedule was full so when a nonprofit group working with foster teens wanted to see her, the rehearsal for her final concert was the only time available.
“I met the teens and their adult leader and seated them in the darkened theater as Nnenna worked with her musicians who had flown in for the concert that night,” Darland recalled.
“When finished, she asked the students what their interest was in music. One girl replied she likes to compose; Nnenna invited her to the stage to ‘show what she’s got.’ The teen belted out an original a cappella song with skill, poise and grace. When done she turned quickly to exit the stage, Nnenna ordered her back to her side, took both of her hands in hers, looked in her eyes and said ‘Girl, you’ve got what it takes! You’ll do anything you want to and you’ll soar!’”
“My tears affected my ability to get my phone camera clicking,” Darland said.
The Visiting Artist Series typically brings over 200 outreach performances a year with artists of international acclaim to the Quad-City region, offering community members the opportunity to see professional performances by nationally touring artists.
One- to two-week residencies provide in-depth and often repeated contact between the artist and audience. Outreach performances take place mostly in schools, but also at business locations, social service organizations, and public facilities. Most residencies conclude with a public performance in a traditional concert hall.
Former Davenport Community Schools superintendent Art Tate said of the series in 2013: “We believe in extracurricular activities that engage our students in the educational environment. We also believe that we must never limit our students…Exposure to the arts broadens their horizons and, for some students, their interest in the arts may lead them to a deeper engagement in other areas of study."
"The program is very valuable for our students," Deb Singley, assistant superintendent in the Moline school district said that year, noting Quad City Arts covered at least 75 percent of the cost of every visit.
"Students are exposed to cultures, genres, instruments and professions that they would not have had the opportunity to experience and appreciate without these presentations," Singley said. "Many times, the artists share personal stories of their own experiences and background that inspire the students to work hard, practice, be open-minded and to follow their dreams."
She said principals, teachers and students have told her the artists "are the most appreciated performances or assemblies of the year. These performances are certainly experiences that we could not provide for our students without the coordination, dedication, and financial support of Quad City Arts."
Jeff Martin, music teacher for the Rock Island Center for Math & Science, said: "Our students get to experience performances that many of them would otherwise never get to see."
In some cases, "they find out that they really like certain genres of music that they didn't think they would," he said. "It is extremely important to have these artists perform for, and interact with, our students. It shows our kids what hard work, determination and passion can produce in one's life.
"Most of the artists we have had at our school are very passionate and dedicated to their craft and this comes across to the kids as they listen to the performance and to the comments that are made by the performers," Martin said.
"Most of the artists make what they do look easy, but they talk with the kids about their education, when they started learning their skills, who influenced them, and how often they had to practice to get to where they are now," he said.
"Kids need to know that it takes hard work and drive to achieve as a performer. I think these visiting artist experiences give the kids a glimpse of this and, I hope, may inspire some of them to want to do the same as they grow up."
“There’s no other series like the Visiting Artist Series anywhere in the country,” said Susan Wahlmann, former Performing Arts & Arts-in-Education Director for Quad City Arts. “Other presenters sponsor short-term residencies a few times a season in conjunction with a main-stage concert, but no one else hosts the number of residencies or reaches as many sites as we do in a season.
“It wasn’t until I started directing the series in 2003 and attending nationwide booking conferences that I realized we're the only ones who have been doing this for so long.”
Quad City Arts has a vision of reaching every student in Scott and Rock Island counties through the Visiting Artist Series, with at least one arts or cultural experience a year. So far, we have reached 70 percent of this vision.
Among the many outstanding artists who have had Q-C appearances include:
Some of the biggest names to visit the Quad-Cities, through the series or Festival of Trees, have come about because of the fateful 1986 appearance by legendary actor Cary Grant – which put Davenport on the map worldwide.
The 82-year-old movie star died after a massive stroke on Nov. 29, 1986, suffered while staying at the Blackhawk Hotel. Grant was scheduled to give a talk at the Adler Theatre as part of the first Festival of Trees, but was unable to go on.
"People who had bought tickets were offered refunds, but most people let the money stay, and his widow didn't take his fee," Darland said of a residency started in 1986 in Grant's name. Funds paid for several artists to visit and perform here since the 1987-88 season.
The purpose of the Cary Grant Residency was to present theatrical artists in memory of Mr. Grant, according to Quad City Arts.
Participants have included Joan Benny, daughter of Jack Benny; Colleen Dewhurst; Lawrence Luckenbill; Robert Cohen; Robert Falls; Seattle Mime Theatre; Guy Davis; Anna Deavere Smith; Edward Albee, B.D. Wong, and film/TV actor John Getz (a Moline native) in November 2011.
Marty Huber, a longtime Moliner who now lives in Montana, volunteered for Festival of Trees before it began because of the quality and impact of visiting artists.
“That has been my whole thing -- I believe in the project, the program, how it gets artists in the schools,” she said. “If there’s a kid you can make excited by some form of the arts, rather than the rectangular thing he holds in his hand, that’s the goal. Festival raises money for the Visiting Artist Series program.
“We’ve never hosted artists in our home, but we’ve driven them all over the place, ran errands for them,” Huber said. “We all have foundations and charities we believe in. No matter where we go, for our Quad-City community, it’s a fantastic thing. In Montana, they have seen some outstanding artist programs, but not on the same caliber of Quad City Arts.”
The Performing Arts Signature Series, also known as PASS, is Quad City Arts’ premier subscriber series featuring select performing artists from the Visiting Artists Series. The season usually consists of six parties from September to April.
Parties are hosted at unique venues throughout the Quad-Cities. Subscribers enjoy an evening of hors d’oeuvres and cocktails along with a performance followed by Q&A and chance to meet the artist.
Kathleen Medhus and her husband Glenn, now in their 90s, have been subscribers to that series since the beginning, founded as Vanguard. They hosted a half dozen parties over the years.
“The group has provided exposure to so many school children who otherwise would not know that world existed -- experiences to cling to,” Kathy said of Visiting Artist Series.
She treasures a long-ago memory of a subscriber party at the Gold Room at Hotel Blackhawk.
“The trumpet players came after us and escorted us to the dinner event with the Getzes (Tom and Karen) on the lead. The dining room was exquisite,” Medhus said. “I still remember the centerpieces! Tall -- like 16-inch tall, slender vases -- of white flowers and of course candles. I remember somebody gave us a centerpiece to take home once. We went every year to this event.”
They value the program so much that they both have life insurance policies in the name of Quad City Arts, to benefit their mission, she said.
In the last school year, the artist series reached 24,649 K-12 students in the region. This total would have been higher, but the season was shortened when the last two residencies were cancelled due to the coronavirus. The schedule and scope of the 2020-21 Visiting Artist Series will be announced soon.
The legacy of an influential early Quad City Arts leader lives on in countless local artists, art supporters, and a huge sculpture in one of the area’s most beautiful parks.
Lloyd Schoeneman began working for Quad City Arts in 1978 as a resident artist, teaching art to many groups including children, the elderly, the disabled and the incarcerated.
He worked for Quad City Arts for 22 years, including as executive director of the Quad City Arts Council when the organization, along with others, merged and become Quad City Arts in 1988. He pioneered several of the council’s early visual art outreach programs, working in the local prison and other sites to educate people and lead them in art making.
“Lloyd was an incredibly creative individual,” according to the organization. “You never knew what to expect from him. His love for art was matched only by his passion for baseball and devotion to his family and community. He even considered a run for city council at one point.
“Lloyd introduced the concept of community-built art to the Quad Cities, organizing design charrettes which resulted in the Navigation Steps at Leach Park, the Nature Spiral at Illiniwek Park and the Lindsay Park Architectural Sculpture Park.”
He served as the Director for Public Visual Arts & Community Liaison at Quad City Arts, and was instrumental in founding several arts organizations, including the Open Cities Film Society, Kaleidoscope (an art program for children at Augustana College), A Very Special Arts Festival and the Quad City Presenters Group.
At Quad City Arts, Schoeneman had a key role in creating the Metro Arts summer youth employment program and the Arts Dollars/Access regranting program, funding individuals and groups to create community arts projects. He was the administrator for the Face the River sculpture project.
Schoeneman died Aug. 17, 2001 from cancer, at age 49.
He and Megan Quinn, Augustana art professor, who specializes in ceramics, were married 13 years. She has been a longtime member of Quad City Arts’ visual arts committee. She also led a Metro Arts group of students in creating a mosaic for the sculpture in Schoeneman’s honor, first installed in Rock Island’s Schwiebert Riverfront Park in 2010.
“It's fabulous," Quinn said at the 2016 ribbon-cutting for the 20-foot tall sculpture, “Lloyd’s Trek,” made of concrete, copper and steel, with one leg covered with mosaic tiles. It’s a contemporary representation of a person walking and weighs roughly 10,000 pounds.
Design for the memorial piece evolved over five years of meetings with community members, friends and Schoeneman's family, including Quinn.
Stuart Morris, the memorial's sculptor, was an art professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and was chosen by Schoeneman and Quinn, before his death. The design — which incorporates greenish waves in the middle section, evoking the river — was approved by Schoeneman's family, a committee overseeing the memorial, and the Rock Island Arts Advisory Committee.
It originally was installed in June 2010 at the western edge of Schwiebert Park, off 17th Street and the Mississippi River. The $12-million park opened that July 3. The first phase of the mosaic work was completed in summer of 2014 by a group of high school and college students in the Quad City Metro Arts program, led by Quinn and senior apprentice Molly Haut.
Most of the mosaic pieces are made from clay, and hand-painted, some more textured than others, Quinn said. The last phase was done in 2016, supported by Quad City Arts Dollars funds, provided by Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency, and John Deere. Augustana also funded the last part of the project through a Faculty-Student Partnership Grant.
"Most people say the mosaic kind of humanizes the sculpture, and adds more personal response to the site, the river site, the person," Quinn said, noting her late husband was a great nature lover.
"The more people that are involved, actually have a hand in making it, designing it, putting it up there, the more it belongs to the community," Quinn said of the sculpture. "It's been really gratifying to me to get so much feedback from people."
The complex, detailed piece (which features Cor-Ten steel) also looks like a walking robot, which would please Schoeneman, she said, since he was a sci-fi fan.
Quad City Arts has distributed many awards in his name, given since 2005, to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations whose work reflects "passion for the arts and significant community impact through the arts.” Awards are given in the following categories: individual artists in literary, visual and performing arts; young emerging artists; arts educators and arts supporters (individual and business).
In the first year, winners were artists Jessi Black, Melissa McBain and Michelle Garrison, and arts supporters Karen Getz and Modern Woodmen of America. In 2019, winners were Sarah Robb (arts educator), Faith Mutum (artist), Skeleton Key (business supporter), and John Taylor (individual supporter).
In 2008, Quinn (who has exhibited her own work often with Quad City Arts) earned the Lloyd Schoeneman Outstanding Art Educator award.
“Quad City Arts does wonderful work engaging and motivating artists and their families through their programming across many art forms and directed towards all ages,” she said recently. “They also draw in art lovers to their galleries and programming. I feel they create a community for us to learn about each other as we appreciate the arts.”
“As a visual artist, I love that QC Arts has changing work of regional artists in two professionally installed galleries,” said Quinn, who has a master of fine arts from Notre Dame. “I also love what Metro Arts does to empower young artists. Thirdly, the visiting artist series has brought in phenomenal talents not just to perform but to engage our community.
“I am proud of the quality of artists work we bring to the galleries and also of the Metro Arts piece my group made.”
She also has a soft spot in her heart for Quad City Arts’ Visiting Artist Series.
“Because of their week to two-week residencies, we got to know and love many of the artists,” Quinn said. “Once we had to find a new hotel for Richard Stoltzman, a clarinetist, because the radiator in his room at House on the Hill at Augie was driving him crazy, hissing a B flat.
“We also did a lot of distracting homesick artists like the amazing accordionist Guy Klucevsek, in the early days of the organization, when residencies could be several weeks.
“The organization started across the street from where it is now and a pop machine out front was an actual part of their fundraising,” she said. “It picked up donors and major grants through the years and moved to two floors of its current building. It has recently adapted to a smaller footprint, but has managed to keep programming vibrant.”
He exhibited his artwork in group and solo exhibitions in the East Village of Manhattan in the 1980s and in traveling exhibitions of both prints and photography. He was included in the Silhouette show at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York City in 2014.
Rayburn and his wife moved to the Quad-Cities in 1990, and from 1995 to 2012 he was President and CEO of W.G. Block Co. and its family of businesses, a leading Midwestern manufacturer of ready-mix concrete, sand and gravel and steel road-building products. He initially became involved in Quad City Arts with the idea of giving back to the community by volunteering.
“I quickly learned that by being involved, Quad City Arts was in fact giving me much more in return,” he said. “Quad City Arts overlaps with so many of the things my family and I hold dearly. We believe that community matters and to make the world a better place you have to first start close to home. I have stayed involved because Quad City Arts make the Quad Cities a better place and it has done so for 50 years.”
Initially, Rayburn volunteered as a committee member, progressing to committee chair, then board member and eventually serving in multiple officer positions over the years. He was on the board from approximately 1992 to 2007 and again from 2011 to 2020, and this is his last year.
Rayburn served as President of the Board in the late 1990s and again, 20 years later from 2018-2019. He also has been a member and occasional chair of the visual art and public art committees dating back to the early 1990s, and the first three “Face the River” community built and designed sculpture projects.
Rayburn also volunteered as the curator of the Art @ the Airport gallery for its first 20 years (laying out and installing over 120 exhibitions) and continue to work with Dawn Wohlford-Metallo at Quad City Arts on the artist pairings and exhibition schedule for all locations.
“The greatest benefit of Quad City Arts is its ability to bring experiences to the Quad-Cities that would otherwise not happen,” he said. “This could be bringing highly acclaimed performing artists from all corners of this country to underserved classrooms, or providing budding artists in all disciplines to showcase their talents via Metro Arts or the annual High School Art Show at the Rock Island Gallery or simply placing rotating regional art and sculpture at our airport and in our public spaces.
“Beyond these interactions, Quad City Arts uses the arts to provide deeper experiences for the children of our community in the form of classroom workshops that build essential life skills like listening and respect,” Rayburn said.
An exhibit highlight he was involved with was at Moline’s Quad City International Airport in 2010, of photos from local aviation history, between 1910 and the 1950s. The historic photos were chosen, enlarged, and reproduced by Rayburn.
They included photos by Gabe Mosenfelder, who used to run a clothing store in downtown Rock Island.
"I had always wanted to do a show like this," Rayburn said at the time. "I remember the old airport from when I was a kid growing up; the way cool stuff about the airport -- things that don't exist anymore."
Looking through the scrapbooks "gives you chills, literally," he said. "You could have done 10 shows, easily filling up the gallery just with photos of World War I."
In a perfect twist of fate, Mosenfelder’s old building is occupied by Quad City Arts, at 1715 2nd Ave.
Rayburn’s photos have been exhibited at Quad City Arts’ Rock Island gallery in the fall of 2016, in 2019. and the Moline Public Library in the fall of 2017. His work was in a group show at the Olson-Larsen Gallery in West Des Moines, July-September, 2018, and in New York City at the Bob Blackburn 20/20 Gallery.
This year has been a tumultuous one for the world and the Q-C arts community.
Late last year, Midcoast Fine Arts announced that it would be disbanding March 31, 2020, and worked with Quad City Arts to take over management of its Moline Centre Station gallery, the annual Riverssance Festival of Fine Arts, and High School Pastel Mural Competition. Then after the Covid pandemic hit, Quad City Arts had to completely reorganize how it did business.
Rayburn emphasized that Quad City Arts has always been scrappy and adaptable.
“It has grit. It has not been afraid to make hard decisions in the past when times were tough to protect its future and it has operated within its means,” he said. “I think this comes from its entrepreneurial arts council roots and is key to its survival.
“Luckily, Quad City Arts has grown wildly beyond its origin while at the same time maintaining its entrepreneurial essence,” Rayburn said. “Last year you saw evidence of this as Quad City Arts was in a strong position to step in and assume several of the programs and events from Midcoast in the hopes that they would carry on and continue to grow.”
“You are now seeing Quad City Arts’ adapting in real time as we all negotiate through Covid-19. It is a constant scramble and Kevin and the staff are making remarkable adjustments to keep the programs going in a safe and accessible way,” he said. “This is not easy! Performing artists are now live streaming vs. performing in person, Chalk Art Fest is going virtual versus on the streets of our cities and hundreds of volunteers had to reimagine our largest fundraiser Festival of Trees on its 35-year anniversary.
“These are monumental accomplishments all made by a relatively small but incredibly talented and dedicated staff and community volunteers.”
As we continue to explore new ways of bringing the arts to our community, we also want to take a step back and celebrate an important milestone in our organization’s rich history.
This fall, Quad City Arts is celebrating its 50th anniversary, dedicated to enriching the quality of life in the Quad-City region through the arts.
Looking back at the impact, the Quad-Cities would not be the Quad-Cities without Quad City Arts.
Founded in August 1970 as Quad City Arts Council, we are a nonprofit arts organization serving a six-county area in eastern Iowa and northwestern Illinois.
We are passionate about the growth and vitality of the Q-C region through the arts and for the past 50 years, have been committed to making quality arts education accessible to everyone through arts opportunities, programming, and community events.
Among hallmarks of Quad City Arts is the Visiting Artist Series, which started in 1974 – to present multi-disciplinary performing arts residencies in schools and community sites -- and has brought us more than 600 artists, 424 residencies, 10,000 school visits, 400 concerts, and over 2.6 million people reached. In 2019 alone, the series impacted 24,649 K-12 students.
The Festival of Trees launched in 1986, and has served as the primary fundraiser for Quad City Arts since its inception, bringing together 3,000 volunteers each year to put on 11 days of events (including a 98-member steering committee). The Visiting Artist Series, Festival of Trees and Quad City Arts Council officially merged into one entity in 1988.
Acting on an urban renewal opportunity in 1990, Quad City Arts began the renovation of a former department store for its offices and gallery space that became the cornerstone project in the revitalization of Rock Island’s downtown, The Arts & Entertainment District.
The Quad City Arts Center Gallery has been central to the organization for 27 years offering more than 2,500 square feet of space showcasing some of the most unique artwork in the area.
This popular space is frequently used for informal musical and literary performances and for special community group meetings.
Quad City Arts has expanded its programs over the years, starting with the annual High School Art Invitational in 1977; the Arts Dollars grant program in 1979; the Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship program and Art at the Airport in 2000; and the Public Sculpture Program in 2008.
Chalk Art Fest started in 2017, and this year, we started taking over some MidCoast Fine Arts programming (since that nonprofit disbanded in the spring), including Riverssance Festival of Fine Art and the High School Pastel Competition. While those did not occur this year, we do plan to continue them in 2021.
In 2019, through all its public programs (including visiting artists, concerts, exhibits, and Festival of Trees), Quad City Arts attracted a total of over 304,000 people, displayed the work of 266 artists, and re-granted over $90,000 to individual artists and organizations in support of community arts projects.
“In the cultural structure of the Quad-Cities, the institutions like the Putnam, Figge and Symphony are the bricks; however, Quad City Arts is the mortar,” recent board president and longtime volunteer Chris Rayburn said. “Quad City Arts is the glue that connects the arts with the community. It is less visible than the ‘bricks,’ but it is everywhere, and it is every bit as essential.”
Former President/CEO of W.G. Block (a concrete, sand and gravel company), and a practicing artist himself, Rayburn has been part of the nonprofit for nearly 30 years and is proud of the fact he’s served two terms as board president 20 years apart.
“I am equally proud of my work curating and installing the exhibition space at the airport for so many years. It is truly a showcase for both local and regional art and artists,” he said. “Honestly, I am proud of every minute I have spent with Quad City Arts.”
Rayburn is especially impressed with executive director Kevin Maynard (who began in December 2018), who he said “is leading a fantastic staff of extremely dedicated and hard-working professionals. The organization has a fantastic board of directors, is on strong financial footing and is really leaning into its future,” Rayburn said.
“There are many exciting opportunities for growing Quad City Arts’ current programs and also expanding in new directions,” he said. “The needs in the community are great, but what is exciting to me is that Quad City Arts has strong support to help meet these needs and beyond.”
“What I love most about Quad City Arts is the passion of our staff and volunteers to present art programming in many different forms to as many people as we can possibly reach,” said Dawn Wohlford-Metallo, visual arts director since 2001, who oversees the main gallery at 1715 2nd Ave., Rock Island, and gallery at Moline’s Quad City International Airport.
“We invest time to seek out individuals who are not aware of our programs and offer access to opportunities for them -- by inviting regional artists to enter work for exhibition or making sure an underprivileged child has transportation and a free ticket to a performance,” she said. “What I like most about my job is the variety. No day is just like another.”
Maynard, 32, came to Rock Island after working five years as executive director of Galesburg’s Orpheum Theatre. He attended Black Hawk College, graduated from Western Illinois University in 2011, and earned his MBA at Western in 2013.
“I knew Quad City Arts and its reputation because we were booking shows in Galesburg as well, and knew talking to agents they were working with Quad City Arts. And obviously, Festival of Trees, I knew about growing up because I grew up in Geneseo,” Maynard said.
Even though he was raised in the Q-C, he didn’t realize the far-reaching impact of the organization before working for it.
“It’s the breadth of programming, the amount in the arts that Quad City Arts is serving,” Maynard said. “It’s not just the Visiting Artist Series; it’s not just the gallery spaces. It’s the public sculpture program. It’s Metro Arts, Chalk Art Festival, and the list goes on and on.”
During the Covid-19 pandemic, which has upended society and devastated arts venues nationwide, he and Quad City Arts have had to be nimble and creative to adapt and continue its mission.
The High School Art Show, Metro Arts, and Chalk Art Fest have all continued under varied formats, and Maynard has introduced a new video series to highlight what we do – “7 With Kevin Live” (which debuts every other Thursday).
“We’re constantly moving forward,” he said. “Obviously, 2020 has thrown a wrench in the mix, but we’re going to find a way to pivot and deliver on that mission, and still provide opportunities for artists in our region and really be able to provide art education opportunities through Metro Arts as well as the Visiting Artist Series. It may not look like past years, but it’s still just as important, if not more important, to deliver on that programming.”
“Especially, with the Arts Dollars program alone, we track how many grants we’ve given out since the beginning, and what those dollar amounts are, it’s amazing,” he said. “It’s a way for our entity to have an impact on smaller arts organizations that may not have a very large budget -- or may not have a grant writer. Some of these national and state grants take a lot of time and effort to submit, so if they’re unable to do that or feel they don’t qualify for that, we’re here for an option so they can still get funding.
“They can still have an impact in the Quad-Cities through the arts,” Maynard said. Since 1990, Arts Dollars has given out over $1.33 million in 802 grants to 447 unique recipients.
In 2019, it distributed over $90,000 to 21 projects, each year offering funding for individual artists and nonprofits of all sizes to support arts-centered projects in the Q-C and surrounding communities. Our goal is to equip individuals and organizations to engage their community, see a long-lasting benefit from the completed projects and pay artists for their work in the process.
Quad City Arts gets funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the states of Illinois and Iowa, and other private granting agencies. “We intend to continue working with those agencies, so that we can continue to provide those grants,” he said.
Arts Dollars is funded mainly through the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council. By not being able to do a traditional Festival of Trees this year will certainly negatively affect Quad City Arts revenue.
“There definitely will be an impact by not hosting an in-person Festival of Trees this year, but we’re confident that the community is going to work with us,” Maynard said. “The Quad-Cities is an incredibly supportive and giving community. We think we’re going to be able to bring in some dollars to bridge that gap. We’re also making changes so we can still continue to offer all our programming, even with a smaller budget in mind.”
The five-week Metro Arts summer apprenticeship program often creates public murals by students ages 15-21, and this year included improv comedy. The program has served 1,140 students since it started (with 96 varied projects), and stipends for apprentices are $500 each; $750 for the senior apprentice, and $2,000 for the professional lead artists.
In lieu of an in-person Festival of Trees this year, we are partnering with KWQC to present a fun-filled one-hour Holiday Special to air on Saturday, Nov. 21st during the traditional parade hour, asking the community to partner for a Day of Giving on the same day.
The TV special event will consist of coverage from past parades, Center Stage acts, messages from staff, volunteers, and community members as well as a message of hope from Santa himself. The goal is to set up matching donors and sponsors who will help make donations go farther.
“The health and wellness of our community is, above all else, our first priority and we truly believe that the spirit of Festival of Trees will be preserved this year through community connection and a commitment to supporting the arts,” Maynard said.
Just like we’ve done for 50 years.
Quad City Arts is partnering with several other local institutions to celebrate women’s empowerment and work by female artists.
This month marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women's constitutional right to vote. This historic centennial offers an unparalleled opportunity to commemorate a milestone of democracy and to celebrate the achievements of women -- especially in the arts.
Quad City Arts’ September and October exhibition at Quad City International Airport, Moline, titled “A Portrait of Remarkable Women,” will feature portraits painted by Heidi Hernandez of Davenport, and Cecile Houel of Fort Madison, Iowa, as well as sculptures by 11 women artists living within a 250-mile radius.
They are Kristin Garnant, Hilde DeBruyne, Lisa Mahar, Liz Wakita, Judy Bales, Joan Webster-Vore, Stephanie J. Baugh, Elizabeth Rhoads Read, Lori Roderick, Karen Brinson and Justine Zimmer.
“A Portrait of Remarkable Women” offers a glimpse of both the extraordinary women artists in our community as well as the women commemorated by Hernandez and Houel.
“One hundred years ago, female artists struggled to be taken seriously in the profession, which meant being included in important exhibitions alongside men and selling their work at comparable prices,” said Dawn Wohlford-Metallo, visual arts director for Quad City Arts.
“Now female artists can be self-supporting, have work purchased for museum collections, can own an art gallery, be curators, esteemed educators, critics, writers, and speakers,” she said. “We now have numerous outstanding female artists here in our region to celebrate and share with the public. These artists can all stand on their own merit and many have had solo exhibitions, previously, but this anniversary provides us an opportunity to highlight talented women living here, now.”
Convinced that art can contribute to world peace, internationally recognized artist Cecile Houel started the “Nobel Peace Prize Collection: Peace Starts Within” in 2014, to celebrate all of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of the prestigious Nobel Foundation since 1901.
Dividing her time between Iowa and France, she paints very personalized, large portraits of the famous laureates to honor their will and dedication to make a better world with strength, courage, and creativity. Each figure, internationally acclaimed, or subject to controversy, brought their light and contributed to humanity’s evolution. As part of this special exhibit commemorating women, Houel will exhibit six female Nobel Peace Prize Winners at the airport gallery.
Another 10 paintings from “Nobel Peace Prize Collection: Peace Starts Within” will be on view at Bettendorf’s Beréskin Gallery from Aug. 28 to Oct. 28, with one from Hernandez. The display, sponsored by WVIK, Quad-Cities NPR, also will feature preliminary drawings and studies.
The public (with mandatory masks) is invited to the opening reception and opportunity to meet the artists on Sept. 4 from 5:30-7:30 p,m. The focus at Beréskin Gallery is not only the gender of the artists, but on the amazing accomplishments of people in the struggle for peace.
Houel said she plans to do portraits of all 107 Nobel Peace Laureates. Working from her studio in Fort Madison – a two-minute walk from the Mississippi River -- she typically completes 10 of the intensely personal 4-foot by 4-foot portraits each year. Included in the display at the Bereskin gallery will be portraits of Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Elie Wiesel and Barack Obama, among others.
Born to a Catholic father and a Muslim mother, Houel said she witnessed discrimination while growing up in the Middle East.
“I have a deep compassion for diversity,” she said, noting her goal is to create peace events where she can display all of her works.
Pat Bereskin, owner of Beréskin Art Gallery & Academy, sees the Houel exhibition as a perfect opportunity for families involved in online schooling to learn about these important figures in history. A downloadable “Passport for Peace” on the gallery website (bereskinartgallery.com) lists where each piece is displayed in the Quad-Cities and gives a biography of each Laureate.
“Together we will have a body of work that tells the history and importance of working for peace through the lives and brushstrokes of Cecile Houel,” she said.
Hernandez, who will be exhibited at the airport, chose to paint local and national female artists she admires.
“The collection of portraits I painted capture an exterior, a façade judged unfairly based on stereotypes and bias,” she said. “Hidden truths gleaned during interviews with the artists, are presented behind the portraits, peeking out underneath the edge of the painting, inviting the viewer to take a closer look.”
Through the process of painting and dialoguing with her subjects, Hernandez explored the term feminism and what it means to contemporary artists.
Additional paintings from the Nobel collection, along with preliminary drawings and studies, will be exhibited at the German American Heritage Center and Museum, and the River Center Adler Theatre display case (also from Aug. 28-Oct. 28). The Adler case also will feature eight portrait paintings from Houel’s student, Rose Moore (who has taught at Bereskin Gallery).
“They’re absolutely beautiful,” Pat Bereskin said. Both she and Quad City Arts emphasize the importance and value of seeing all the women’s artwork in person, as opposed to online.
The art is complemented by related long-term exhibits at Davenport’s Figge Art Museum and Putnam Museum & Science Center.
“Seen and Heard: The Art of Empowerment” at the Figge Art Museum (on the second floor through May 2021) features women artists who asserted their artistic empowerment despite social and cultural barriers. In addition to empowering themselves, several of the artists on view give voice and visibility to the marginalized through their work.
This exhibition, drawn from the Figge’s collection, features 13 women artists, including Marisol Escobar, Grace Hartigan, Louise Nevelson, Lee Krasner, and Alison Saar.
A number of the artists also created work concerning women’s experiences, establishing that it was a subject deserving visibility and recognition. Other artists created work that brought attention to societal injustices and traditionally marginalized groups, such as Carrie Mae Weems, who probes the racial, social, and cultural inequities in art history through her work.
The artists featured here have contributed to a more inclusive environment in the art world and beyond.
“We are proud to present these dynamic artworks from the museum collection, including several recent acquisitions,” Figge assistant curator Vanessa Sage said. “While issues of inequality and representation remain prevalent in the art world, the Figge is dedicated to better representing the world in which we live and the artists who are an essential part of it.”
The Putnam Museum has extended its exhibit on the women’s suffrage movement – “Liberated Voices / Changed Lives” – until Nov. 4 (the day after the presidential election).
The Putnam exhibit – whose major sponsor is Royal Neighbors of America — showcases how changing technology provided more time for women to work on the suffrage movement, which culminated in the signing of the 19th Amendment Aug. 26, 1920.
The Putnam features an original touch-screen exhibit on Quad-Cities men and women who worked for and against suffrage between 1900 and 1920.
Together, these six Q-C venues provide visual art and historic displays that reflect the importance, power and struggle of female artists, as well as all people who have worked tirelessly for the equality of women, world peace, and the advancement of humankind.
Venues and exhibits:
To learn about the Iowa artists, visit cecilehouel.com and heidihernandezart.com.