COVID & the Arts: Virtual High School Art Show

Mar 31, 2020

Among the many events affected by the Covid-19 pandemic is a longtime visual arts tradition in the Quad-Cities.

Earlier this month, Dawn Wohlford-Metallo, visual arts director for Quad City Arts, was forced to think fast to decide how the 44th annual High School Art Show would go on, following the closing of the downtown Rock Island gallery on March 18th. In charge of overseeing the exhibit and competition for 18 years, she typically had area art teachers drop off the student artwork. She would display them, and judges, who are all professional artists, would view them and pick winners for a ceremony held the first Thursday in April.

School closings and the Quad City Arts closing made photographing the art essential, to create a virtual gallery and awards, still planned for April 2nd.

"This has really, really been a roller coaster and the teachers are frustrated  and they're doing their best and everybody wants to do what they can for the students."

Typically, there are 200 entries, including some from teachers, and there’ll be about half that this year, from 11 schools. The show is open to public, private, and home-schooled students.

Q-C Arts gives out a total of $5,000 in prizes to 30 students, including one scholarship for a graduating senior, and there also are awards for teachers. 

The first-time virtual gallery will be on quadcityarts.com, and its Facebook page. It’s been a complex, exhausting process for her to overcome the obstacles to getting as many artworks as possible into the competition. 

"People may wonder why I'm going to these lengths for a bunch of art works by high school students. I did it to prove that art matters. Art is the only reason some of them go to high school. Art feeds the soul. People who can create can solve problems and we're going to need a whole lot of creative thinkers in this new world. We also did it because these kids are losing so much right now and we, our staff at Quad City Arts, we just want to give them something to look forward to. The other thing is the art work is amazing and we all can't wait to share it with everybody else."

Painting "Hold On - Pain Ends" by Alexisciel Dinh, 12th grade at Assumption High School, Davenport
Credit Quad City Arts

One painting is especially moving, given current events. It was done before the pandemic started, and it's called "HOLD ON - PAIN ENDS" and the word "Hope" is painted on it. And she says “Hope is what we all need right now.” 

"I don't know - probably that student was referring to something in their own life, but it's so relevant to what we're all going through right now - just holding on until this is over and hope."

Dawn Wohlford-Metallo, visual arts director for Quad City Arts.