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.
Austin Robertson is innately drawn to chalk pastel art.
The 23-year-old Davenport artist, who earned an associate’s degree in fine arts from Scott Community College, was the first-place winner in the first Quad City Arts Chalk Art Fest in 2017, in downtown Davenport, and has taken part every year since.
“Just watching the creations come alive – it’s fun to see them go from concept to finished piece,” Robertson, a Davenport North alumnus, says of his love for art. “It’s fun to see its progress.”
In 2015, he won the best of show in Quad City Arts’ High School Art Show, a self-portrait in blue Bic pen. It was probably 20 hours of work and earned him a $900 scholarship. Chalk pastel is his favorite medium – which all Q-C residents are encouraged to participate in this month, during the fourth-annual virtual art competition.
“It’s the one I think I’ve learned to utilize the most control, and it’s the one I’m most able to play with the colors,” Robertson says of chalk. For that first two-day fest, he won 1st Place and People’s Choice for a six-foot-by-eight-foot portrait of a musician, with color pouring down his face, based off a lyric from a song, “Black and White.”
Last year, when the festival was held in downtown Bettendorf as part of the “Be Downtown” event, he won People’s Choice again for an 8-foot-by-10-foot portrait of a lion in half color and half black and white. It was based on a colored-pencil drawing he was commissioned to do from a fellow Davenport North grad who also studied with his art teacher.
Robertson was partly inspired to greatness by the public nature of the chalk art event, which will be done in private this month.
“I think just being kind of being in a public space, being able to display my art, having crowds of people watching,” he says. “There’s definitely a lot of pressure; I’ll get into my own head space to do it. I can zone it out and focus. There are things you don’t want to make mistakes. I want to show my ability, to individuals who never knew or seen my stuff.”
Last year, the event was held in the parking lot of Ascentra Credit Union’s headquarters.
“People were more in close quarters. I liked being in the parking lot, being closed off, it felt better,” Robertson, who works at Davenport’s Michaels art store, says.
This month, he’s going to create a chalk art piece on a friend’s driveway, and having more time to complete it will be good. “Especially with it being virtual and being at home, it’s a little less pressure that way,” Robertson says. “I took vacation off work, so I can spend a lot of time working on it.”
The Quad City Arts event will take place from Aug. 15 to 28, and chalk artists can create their work safely at home, on their driveway, sidewalk, porch or balcony.
Snap a photo of your masterpiece and send to Quad City Arts (via website or e-mail) by Aug. 28 at 3 p.m., and be eligible for over $1,500 in cash prizes, including a youth category (for ages 12-17) award and people’s choice award. There are no limitations to your work, and it can be in any size or shape and created with any type of chalk. People’s Choice Award will be open for voting on Quad City Arts’ Facebook Page, Saturday, August 29th through Sunday, August 30th at 3pm.
Artists who tag @quadcityarts on Facebook or Instagram or use the
hashtag #chalkartfestqc and #quadcityarts will have the photos and videos of their installations shared throughout the weekend, as well as be entered to win one of several $25 gift cards to downtown Bettendorf retail and restaurant businesses.
“Chalk Art Fest was part of Bettendorf’s Be Downtown event and part of that goal was to highlight the businesses that are operating in downtown Bettendorf,” says Quad City Arts’ executive director, Kevin Maynard. “Since the event was cancelled, we wanted to still highlight those businesses.”
Since they can’t host the in-person event, Quad City Arts is partnering with the Downtown Bettendorf Organization to give away gift cards to these businesses as a way to continue supporting them, Quad City Arts marketing director Karie Gilson says.
Ten gift cards will be available to businesses including Sports Fans, QC Fuel, Riverside Grill, Stacks Pancake House, and Keller’s American Grill/Isle Casino.
There were over 100 artists who participated in last year’s chalk art fest. Previously held on 2nd Street downtown Davenport, last year’s fest was June 8-9 at Ascentra Credit Union’s headquarters, on State Street between 20th and 21st streets.
Be Downtown, which had planned to be part of the regional Alternating Currents festival (Aug. 27-30), was also canceled recently due to Covid-19 concerns.
Last year’s Chalk Art Fest winners were:
The prizes for the festival are:
Complimentary 48-count boxes of pastel chalk (courtesy of Blick Art Materials) will be available at Quad City Arts’ Rock Island Gallery (1715 2nd Ave.) during normal business hours until supplies run out. Entrance is via arts alley on the side of the building and masks are required.
The fest is sponsored by the city of Bettendorf, Morency Family Foundation, and Blick Art Materials. For more information, visit quadcityarts.com/chalk-art-fest.
Robertson said his focus is on realistic portraits, but he has always enjoyed stepping out of his comfort zone when it comes to style, size, and mediums. One of his biggest challenges was illustrating a children's book called “Pete's Grand Plan,” an anti-bullying book from the Pete the Purple Bull program. You can find a gallery of his works at austinrobertsonarts.weebly.com.
Why should others join the chalk art contest?
“It’s fun,” Robertson says. “Yes, it is a competition, you can win prizes, but even to just have a fun time. It’s fun to play with chalk pastels in general. It’s about having fun, and you get to be outside, which is nice.”
After thoughtful and careful consideration, Quad City Arts -- along with the Riverssance planning committee -- has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Riverssance Festival of Fine Art (which was to take place Sept. 19-20 in Lindsay Park, Village of East Davenport).
Riverssance – which was formerly organized under Midcoast Fine Arts, which disbanded this spring -- will return Sept. 18 and 19, 2021, to support the programming at Quad City Arts.
“We gave a lot of consideration to the event and just about any way we could do it,” said Quad City Arts executive director Kevin Maynard. “Ultimately, it really came down to, there were a lower number of artists participating this year, due to Covid. There were ones that were backing out; we had difficulty finding musicians and food vendors.
“At the end of the day, all that combined made it difficult to be financially feasible, and would make it a shell of the event,” he said.
Riverssance, which was in its 33rd year, is a well-known art festival throughout the Midwest, typically featuring 90 exhibiting artists, a children’s art activity tent, wine tasting, gourmet food and live regional music. Awards are given to exhibiting artists in various categories and the prestigious Harley Award is given to an individual who positively affected the arts and artists in the Quad-Cities during his or her lifetime.
This year’s event was also organized by the same 10-member committee, assisted by a few staff from Quad City Arts, Maynard said.
Many of the participating artists sell their work online and the public is encouraged to view and consider purchasing their art on the following websites:
The Riverssance festival will be back at Lindsay Park Sept. 18 and 19, 2021. In the meantime, support local artists and join us again in 2021!