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.
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!
Want to win $100? Enter Quad City Arts’ Summer Selfie Challenge!
Take a selfie with one of our recently installed sculptures and enter to win a $100 VISA gift card. Just make sure to tag #quadcityarts and #visitquadcities. The more sculptures you tag the better chances you have to win! Read our blog for all the details, driving directions and start jumping around the Quad Cities! Contest begins July 30, and submissions will be accepted until midnight on August 10th.
HOW TO ENTER:
Take pictures of yourself with as many of our sculptures as you can and post with #quadcityarts and #visitquadcities, the person with the largest number of selfies with sculptures from our Public Sculpture Program WINS! The contest begins TODAY, July 30 and submissions will be accepted until midnight on August 10th, 2020. Winners will be announced on August 12th and contacted through social media (Please keep an eye on your inbox!).
One grand prize will be awarded. Odds of winning depend on the number of participants.
Grand Prize: the grand prize winner will receive a prepaid $100 Visa gift card. Winning photos will be posted in an online gallery. Non-winning fun and creative art/selfie photos may also be reshared on our public pages.
Participants must be 18 years of age or accompanied by an adult/parent. No purchase necessary. All federal, state and local laws apply. In the event of a tie, a random drawing will be done to select the final winner.
You may have already heard the news: Quad City Arts has made the difficult decision not to host the 35th Annual Kwik Star Festival of Trees in person this year due to uncertainty and concern for the safety of our 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.
We’re disappointed, and I’m sure you are too. Festival of Trees is near and dear to many of us in the community and it is the place where many memories have been made, family pictures have been taken, and funds have been raised to support Quad City Arts’ mission to provide art for all. Festival of Trees will still continue and we are excited to share with you what we have in store for this year and for years to come!
Since we are unable to gather in person, we are asking you to partner with us to continue the spirit of Festival of Trees through a one-day special event in support of the arts! On November 21, join Festival of Trees and KWQC for a fun-filled, one-hour televised holiday special and Day of Giving. It will be a day of support and celebration that we hope will fill hearts with holiday cheer as we ask the community to join us in support of the arts.
We will still have some old favorites like the Honor Tree, Isabel Bloom, and VIP Baskets this year, and lots of surprises still to come!
Read the full press release below.
After thoughtful and careful consideration, Quad City Arts has made the difficult decision not to host the 35th Annual Kwik Star Festival of Trees in person this year due to uncertainty and concern for the safety of our 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. We recognize that Festival of Trees is a beloved holiday tradition in the Quad Cities, and while this was not an easy decision to make, we believe it is the right one.
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, November 21st during the traditional parade hour, and we are asking the community to partner with us for a Day of Giving on the same day. 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 have some exciting events and challenges planned for that day as well, so stay tuned for details!
Festival of Trees 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.
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 Festival. And it all started with that group of people who believed it was possible. We chose the theme for this year, “Believe”, in January 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. In addition, Quad City Arts plans to have select designs available for sale in our Rock Island Gallery, along with items from the Tinsel Treasures Gift Shop and Be Original Gallery. Honor Tree ornaments and Isabel Bloom sculptures will still be available for purchase on the Festival website or at the Rock Island Gallery as we know many will still want to commemorate this year in their collection and honor loved ones with a personalized ornament.
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.
Quad City Arts is a local, nonprofit arts agency dedicated to enriching the quality of life in the Quad City region through the arts.
Just as last year was unusual for our Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship program, this summer also is unique.
Far fewer students – ages 15 to 21 – are participating, in fewer projects, and they are wearing face coverings and are social distancing, as is the current practice. That does not mean that the two outdoor murals and improvisational comedy being created over the past five weeks are 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 wear 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 are being 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.
“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’s heading 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’s been working 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 are required to wear masks or face shields, and unlike previous years, do not share paint or buckets with water to rinse brushes. Masks are provided in case students forget to bring one, as well as hand sanitizer, water and sunscreen.
The mural in Moline is in the courtyard on 6th Avenue next to La Primavera, on the wall of Bajas Classy Resale, 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.
“This collaborative mural project exemplifies and honors the legacy of these two truly remarkable community leaders,” said Paul Plagenz, president/CEO, Moline Foundation.
“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.
“Once they’re working, they’re in their own world,” she 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. “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 will take a break after this week, and start another five weeks in late July with a new group of 11 or 12 apprentices to finish the building by the time school starts.
“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.
The three-student improv comedy group meets daily at Schwiebert Park in Rock Island and is 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.” Last week, they did a brief improv show July 2 for customers at Theo’s in downtown Rock Island.
“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.
Covid also forced changes in how Metro Arts will present their annual showcase – virtually this year, at 7 p.m. Thursday, 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.”
The showcase will display photos of the groups and their work, including recorded clips of the improv group that will be shared as well. It’ll be part of Quad City Arts’ newest video series, “7 with Kevin Live.”
For the showcase, the improv students will offer some puns (each from home), and not scene work. “It’s difficult to do that on multiple different screens at the same time,” Mahr said. Last year, there were nine apprentices doing improv.
This year, it’s smaller because it was harder to promote with school being out the last quarter. “There was a possibility we were going to have to teach online, and improv is very interactive and sometimes it works online, and others it’s more difficult to do online,” she said.
There is an additional Metro Arts project planned this fall in downtown Davenport.