Quad City Arts Celebrates 50 Years

Sep 15, 2020

Quad City Arts is marking 50 years of enriching our six-county region through the arts.

Since its founding in August of 1970 as the Quad City Arts Council, the nonprofit has expanded programs over the years, starting with the annual High School Art Invitational in 1977; the Arts Dollars grant program in 1979; Metro Arts Youth Apprenticeship program and Art at the Airport in 2000; and the Public Sculpture Program in 2008. In 1988, it merged with the Visiting Artist Series and Festival of Trees to become Quad City Arts.

This year, it took 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 were not held this year, they will return next year.

Kevin Maynard, Executive Director since 2018, says even though he was raised in Geneseo, he didn’t realize the far-reaching impact of the organization before working for it.

Quad City Arts Executive Director Kevin Maynard
Credit Quad City Arts

“It’s the breadth of programming, the amount, the different areas in the arts that Quad City Arts is serving. 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, it’s Chalk Art Festival, and the list goes on and on.”

During the Covid-19 pandemic, which has 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 introduced a new video series – “7 With Kevin Live” (which debuts every other Thursday) – to highlight exhibiting artists.

“We’re constantly moving forward. 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 arts 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.”

Since 1990, Arts Dollars has given out over $1.3 million in 802 grants to 447 unique recipients. In 2019, it distributed over $90,000 to 21 projects, offering funding for individual artists and nonprofits of all sizes to support arts projects in the Q-C and surrounding communities. Arts Dollars is funded mainly through the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation and the Illinois Arts Council.

Maynard says not being able to host a traditional Festival of Trees this year will hurt the organization's revenue. 

“There definitely will be an impact by not hosting an in-person Festival of Trees this year, however, we’re pretty confident that the community is going to work with us. 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 slight changes so we can still continue to offer all our programming, even with a smaller budget in mind.”

In lieu of Festival of Trees this year, they’re partnering with KWQC-tv to present a 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. The goal is to set up matching donors and sponsors who will help make donations go farther. 

The five-week Metro Arts summer 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.

The fourth-annual chalk fest moved online in August and was open to anyone. 100 artists from across the country participated. 

“I am thrilled with how our Chalk Art Fest went this year. Switching to a virtual model, you really have no idea what to expect or how many people you’re actually going to engage or help get involved.”

The current “Portrait of Remarkable Women” exhibit at the airport, and related work at other gallery space throughout the area embodies the kind of arts partnerships Maynard wants to do more of in the future.

“It does highlight some of the things we are able to do in the community, by putting together the pieces – bringing arts partners together to create things like this, or seeing all the different things that are happening in the community and creating one cohesive vision around it.”

“It is an honor to be at the helm during this time. Even with everything going on that’s really unique, we’re able to pivot and kind of do some really great stuff. Being at the helm, to help the organization and general public look back at 50 years of history and 50 years of impact, it is an honor. It’s really cool to see where the organization started and how it’s grown and changed over the years. And it shows, the organization, it grows."