Living Proof Exhibit Partners With Bettendorf Restaurant To Help Artists, People Impacted by Cancer
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If you look around while you’re enjoying a great meal at Food Affair Bistro in Bettendorf (and you should do both), you should know most of the amazing artworks were created by cancer survivors in the region – paintings by Kent Broadbent, Annawan; Gina Kirschbaum, Bettendorf; Tara Moorman, Cedar Rapids, and several by Laura Goldman Weinberg, Fairfield, Iowa.
It’s a new romance between the seven-month old restaurant (at Utica Ridge Road and Spruce Hills) and the 11-year-old Moline nonprofit Living Proof Exhibit (LPE) that’s literally helping to improve people’s lives.
LPE – which annually organizes an exhibition of art by cancer survivors from a 200-mile radius of the Quad-Cities – coordinated the placement of the local art with the support of Food Affair co-owner Namrata Mallik, a physician who’s passionate about cancer care. The restaurant also is providing selected menu items for the fourth-annual LPE fundraising event, “Flourish,” on Aug. 19 (NOTE: reservations for food cost $35 and must be made by Aug. 11). Living Proof offers a variety of free programming that shares the therapeutic benefits of the arts with people impacted by cancer.
“We want to make sure people know the artwork is from Living Proof,” LPE executive director Pamela Crouch said this week of the art at Food Affair Bistro, which is for sale, and people can contact Crouch if they’re interested in buying a piece. “The artists aren’t necessarily there to sell their work. They love the opportunity to be in a beautiful space, and they’re also there to raise the awareness of our mission,” she said. “I am amazed at Dr. Mallik; she really understands what we do.”
For many years, LPE has displayed artwork of local cancer survivors at cancer centers of UnityPoint Health and Genesis in Moline and Davenport, and some artwork at Genesis is permanent. Each year, LPE has organized an exhibit, “The Visualization of Hope,” of cancer survivor art at art museums and galleries in the region; the latest will open Aug. 16 at The University of Dubuque. But this is the first time Living Proof has provided artwork for a private
business, Crouch (herself a cancer survivor four times over) said.
“Once we established what she was looking for, what she said was, ‘I wanted the art to mean something,’ ” she recalled of Dr. Mallik, who’s in internal medicine with Genesis in Moline. “Oh my gosh, this is perfect, it raises up everyone who comes in there. They’ve had people come in, they ask, did you notice the artwork? It’s all from cancer survivors, all from Living Proof, and people are amazed. We’re reaching an audience, people can recommend our creative sessions, or my friend is a cancer survibor and he or she is an artist. It’s helping us reach an entirely new audience. The fact that Dr. Mallik understands the mission perfectly, it’s a partnership made in heaven. Who knew?”
As a general practice physician (since 2008), who went to medical school in her home country of India, she is very passionate about cancer care, and did about three years cancer research while at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
“I felt it was very close to my heart,” Mallik said recently, noting Genesis in the Q-C has outstanding cancer care. She has an aunt in Rochester, Minn., who was treated for breast cancer at Mayo Clinic in 2015. Until last year, she didn’t know an organization like Living Proof existed.
“It was absolutely astonishing for me to realize that, oh my God, I’m a physician – I see cancer patients so frequently. I don’t know about it, and that’s bad on my part,” Mallik said. “I was talking to Pamela and said it was horrible as a physician, I don’t know about it. These are
resources that should be available; you’re just trying to help another person.”
In the past decade, she has seen more and more patients who have had cancer, which could be due to greater public awareness, early detection of symptoms, screening, diagnosis and treatment.
“I think it’s because we’ve become more vigilant about our own body as a patient,” Mallik said. “It’s also better techniques available, to be able to test and diagnose. Another thing is, we have treatment for more things, so even though I’m diagnosing you, if I don’t have any options for you, what’s the point?”
Owner of the restaurant with her cardiologist husband Rajiv, and their friends Karishma and Sanjay Pancholi, Mallik was introduced to LPE through Terry Wilson. They both serve on the board of Ballet Quad Cities, and he recommended meeting Crouch and getting to know LPE last fall.
“She explained to me what Living Proof is, showing me her pamphlet, and I was talking to her about art and she mentioned her artists,” Mallik said. “I was looking at her art, and oh my God, this is gorgeous. At that time, the Figge was hosting them as an organization. She took
me there and we checked everything out and I was like, oh my God, I love it. It helps tell the story.”
Art is much more meaningful when you can know the artist and understand the inspiration behind each piece, she said. “Every piece here, either I know the artist or the story. Every piece has a story behind it and an emotion behind it, why it was done.” Both Mallik and Crouch were interested in displaying art by cancer survivors. The artists were all interested as well.
“They all seemed interested; how can we help?” Mallik recalled. “That was just because how they feel about Living Proof. It has nothing to do with me; it’s all about giving back to Living Proof.” Each work is available for sale, but they recently have not had plaques with identifying information, which will be added soon (without sale prices).
They drove to Fairfield, Iowa to meet Weinberg (a breast-cancer survivor) and see her work. Mallik ended up asking to show over a dozen abstract paintings.
How does making art help beat cancer?
The restaurant has copies of a pamphlet and bookmark promoting LPE. Mallik strongly agrees with the therapeutic benefits of the arts, long before she was aware of Living Proof.
“I think the first thing I was always told by my teachers, what is your attitude toward your disease, that guides how you’re going to do,” she
said. “Attitude affects everything. How do you make a better attitude? You’re amongst people who care for you, and you care for them. You’re surrounded by art; you’re surrounded by things that you like. It just doesn’t mean painting, it means any sort of art – music, dance.
“Using your hands to do anything is just a very good way of being better,” Mallik said. “Make something – draw, use buttons to stick on paper. The most important thing I‘ve found in chronic disease patients, is the need to use their hands in doing things, in any way you can. What the mission is, is exactly that – the organization tries to keep the cancer patients, survivors and also their caretakers involved. You still are a person. This does not define you; you shouldn’t be stuck in the box, going from one chemotherapy to another chemotherapy, to radiation. That is not all you; you still are a person who has a child getting married in two months, or a child getting born in your family. That moved me, and I wanted to be part of it in any way possible.”
Of the LPE artists, she said: “They are very good in giving you the time you need and want from them. They are just generous, completely generous people.”
Keeping a positive attitude is invaluable in improving disease treatment and recovery, Mallik said. “Then let the treatments work; be optimistic. These treatments aren’t getting invented on you. They work; that’s why they’re still around. Give them a chance. If you go in thinking, nothing’s gonna work on me, it’s a matter of giving it a chance.”
Being creative boots your brain activity, she said. “It keeps you away from having negative thoughts. When you have something in front of you, it’s a material product you’re told is beautiful, and I think it helps your mental health a lot more.”
In med school, Mallik was taught that 75 percent of success comes from a patient’s attitude about their disease, and 25 percent is the direct physician care and treatment. “We don’t do all that much,” she said. “When you come to me and not give your 75 percent, and expect your 25 to be all it takes to make you better, it’s not gonna work. You have to do your 75. You have to know you’re gonna be OK; you have to believe in yourself.”
LPE also is very important by bringing people impacted by cancer together to create things, through free creative sessions.
“It’s feeling that I am not alone,” Mallik said. “This is not an unusual place to be; I’m not fighting this alone. I think for caretakers and survivors, it’s even more important. Caretakers are unfortunately the most ignored group. They are ones who sometimes suffer even more than the patient.”
“Caretakers are being responsible for this person in all ways. They may be crying inside, but they can’t cry outside,” she said. “They may know more about your dementia than you do, but they have to encourage you to make more brain connections.” LPE has been hugely supportive to that group as well, Mallik said. She hopes to actually host Flourish at Food Affair next year.
“We’ve been doing this for 11 years, but during the pandemic, people realized how much they needed the arts to relax, and to reduce stress,” she said. “Specifically to cancer, there are so many studies out there that show a direct correlation between using the arts and reducing stress. We all know how much stress impacts our health. That’s why we offer such a wide variety of art mediums. Flourish is the only fundraiser that we host. Everything we want to do, we want to make free for people, because cancer is so expensive. That’s why everyone’s support and gifts make such a big difference.”
Creating art to uplift others
Take one look at one of Laura Weinberg’s exuberant explosions of color, and just try not to feel pure joy and release. That’s her goal.
“I see a blank canvas as a field of all possibilities, and am filled with excitement and enthusiasm to witness the journey of the creative
impulse,” the friendly 69-year-old says in her artist statement on lauraweinberg.com. “My heart is filled with the wonder and joy of life as I see the painting evolve moment to moment. Colorful, bright, happy, creative, energetic, fun, expressive are some of the words that have been used to describe my abstract style. I offer my gifts with a full and grateful heart to the community and the world. I continue to create and share my works with the hope of inspiring and uplifting others.”
Weinberg is a wife, mother, office manager, Certified Laughter Yoga Leader, poet, songwriter, and writer of inspirational messages for the world. All the while, she continues to create art in various forms with the hope of uplifting others.
After earning her degree in elementary education, she moved to Toledo, Ohio where she took classes at the Toledo Museum of Art. And when living in Chicago, she took neighborhood art classes, all the time exploring different media, like drawing, watercolor, oil, tissue paper collage, acrylic, and mixed media. When she, along with her husband and two children, moved to Fairfield in 1988 (because of its transcendental meditation community), she continued to experiment with different media while creating many art pieces.
After Weinberg was diagnosed with and treated for cancer in her 50s, she re-evaluated her life and decided to once again take local art classes and share her creative talents with the world. Her teacher encouraged her to continue to explore and express her inner creativity and hosted her first exhibit in 2010. Weinberg has exhibited many, many places throughout the Midwest, including with LPE since 2014. Surviving cancer gave her a new lease on life.
“With the whole thing from radiation and surgery. I have lymphedema in my arm and so I wear a compression sleeve all the time and during night time sleep, but that’s a small price to pay,” Weinberg said. “I’m still here and I’m still kicking, you know. After treatment, I thought, well I’ve been given a second chance at life. What do I want to do? And I thought of all the things that I enjoyed, which is art and writing and things. I said, all I want to do is inspire and uplift other people.”
She has self-published her own books and songs, and teaches laughter yoga, meditation and stress reduction. She also became a minister and founded a non-denominational spiritual center in Fairfield. Meditation and deep breathing really helped Weinberg in her cancer recovery.
“I don’t know if I could have made it through without that; it really helps bring me back to my center,” she said. “It helps me find that place within me that’s home. You know our true home deep inside, so that I could cope with everything and the traveling back and forth with the treatments and all of that, it gave me a chance to really relax deep inside and let go and face the next day.”
Laughter really is “the best medicine” because “it boosts the immune system, it’s a great cardio workout,” Weinberg said. She can’t say enough good things about LPE.
“It’s just totally amazing how they reach out to the patients and the caregivers and the services that they offer,” Weinberg said. “And they encourage people to express their creativity, which is what I do too.”
“I’m not a real representational kind of artist. I just expressed from my spirit and I that’s what I think Living Proof offers people — that opportunity to just express their creativity, which is really the closest part of us to our spirit, isn’t it?” she said.
“It’s our own voice. However, we want to express that right courage, and offer a place for that and so that people are comfortable to do that and it’s beautiful, just so beautiful, because the cancer journeys are really challenging and so anything you can do to help people is needed. In fact, I actually do some of my laughter sessions for Cancer Treatment Centers of America.”
Weinberg is thrilled to have several of her paintings up at Food Affair Bistro.
“I hope that it’s inspired people. So if they’re enjoying the view when they’re eating their meal, that’s good to know,” she said. While she’s never had art displayed in a private business, one of her friends has some of her art at a local Fairfield radio station.
Making food that’s a work of art
The interior design and actual dishes at Food Affair Bistro definitely have an artistic flair all their own.
“We always wanted to have a restaurant,” Dr. Mallik (who’s lived with her husband and two sons in Bettendorf since 2012) said. “I always did, for the past six years. We have been familiar with Aman, the chef, since about 2006-7. We had visited Bettendorf then, because of a
friend or two who was here.”
Aman Razdan was a chef at the former Red Crow Grille, which became Hemispheres Bistro, 2504 53rd Ave., Bettendorf.
“We stayed in constant contact with him, and then about four years ago, we thought we should open a really cute little Indian restaurant,” she said, noting it didn’t work out, which she’s happy about. Razdan still owns Hemispheres and splits his time between the two.
“The intention was to be a community space,” Mallik said, noting they have a large banquet room (with seating up to 100) and separate smaller room (for 10-12) for meetings and private events, also with beautiful, tasteful art.
They wanted to have Food Affair to be in a very visible location, and be spacious, open and modern. Though they chose to move there in February 2020, the pandemic last year didn’t discourage the partners from opening, Mallik said. The building developer, Steve Geifman, also is a personal friend, and the restaurant was completed last October (serving breakfast and lunch, open until 2 p.m.)
“How do you stop? Why do you stop? I want to do this,” she said of the impact of Covid, adding they
reduced capacity, distanced customers inside, sold a lot of takeout, and installed Plexiglas dividers between booths. “You can’t stop your life. You have to keep on going; you can’t stop.”
They first opened for a big private event last December, for a breast-cancer program from Genesis, Mallik said, and the public came in starting in January. The building is 6,000 square feet, including the separate rooms, and much of the décor has an orange theme, similar to the restaurant’s signature sweet potato fries.
“The first four months, we were busier than we ever thought we were gonna be,” the co-owner said. “I think there was an excitement on the public’s part, and I think we are still riding the same wave. We have very good food, good ambience and all that. I think it has been good that people want to have successful businesses. That’s what I like about this town. We’ve been lucky. I think more of that is chef’s reputation – being a good chef and being a good guy.”
Chef Razdan is a 2018 Iowa Restaurant Association Dream Award Winner.
“What he makes out of food, it’s not ordinary food anymore,” Mallik said. “I’m being truthful – with or without his involvement with me. He doesn’t think of food as food – he thinks of it as art. He plays with it. He plays with your taste and palette, and you don’t even know it’s being tested on you.”
What will be part of Flourish?
For the second straight year, due to Covid, the Flourish fundraiser will be held virtually, and will be free to view online at livingproofexhibit.org, on Aug. 19 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The silent auction will actually begin online at 6 p.m. Aug. 17 and run through 6 p.m. Aug. 21. Of the 41 auction items, about a half-dozen artworks by cancer survivors have been donated, Crouch said. Those include
“What’s great is, you get notifications once you register, if you got outbid on something,” Crouch said. “You have some items you can choose to ‘buy it now.’ If you want the beautiful lotus bird bath from Isabel Bloom, you can just click ‘buy it now’ and it’s yours. You don’t have to outbid anybody. There’s a set price for it.”
About half the total items have that “buy it now” option, she said.
“This pandemic has shown us, it’s caused people so much stress and when you’re dealing with cancer and your family is dealing with cancer of a loved one, there’s been so much loss,” Crouch said. “What’s wonderful in a way about what has happened with this pandemic and how we had to adapt is that we have a YouTube channel, and every time we have a creative session, it goes up on the YouTube channel and people can watch it later or participate later if they want to. People turn to the arts.”
One auction that won’t be ready until the end of the night on the 19th is a new painting, that local artist will be doing that night, as part of the presentation. You can watch him work, and that will go out on the auction at the end of the night. The artist has done it one prior time at the
Putnam Museum. “He finished it that night, we auctioned it off and it was phenomenal,” Crouch said. “We’re really excited about that. He’s just a beautiful painter.”
His wife is Nisha Ladlee, who is vice president of development at the Putnam. Flourish will be hosted by WQAD’s Denise Hnytka, who has hosted live before and last year did the garden walk video for LPE. “This year, we’re going to have four videos of people explaining their connection to Living Proof Exhibit.”
They will have the garden walk video at the Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island, led by Terri Reinartz, a cancer survivor and LPE board member. “Terri brings an understanding of what it’s like to be a cancer survivor; what it’s like to be in a creative session and she knows almost all the artists. We have 10 artists showing their work in the garden walk video this year.”
“It’s going to be nurturing and beautiful. There’s always going to be art. You want people to just relax and enjoy their meal,” Crouch said. “We really look forward to getting together again next year. But our creative sessions are hybrid – so we’ve been doing those in-person and also video. A lot of our people who participate are just not ready yet to get together in person, so being able to have them in video I think is the best of both worlds.”
Having Flourish virtually also allows them to incorporate many video features they wouldn’t necessarily be able to do as well in person, and since many cancer patients and survivors are immunocompromised, it makes sense for them to not be out in groups, she said.
“The auction is perfectly placed; it’s held in August, so people can get their Christmas shopping done early,” Crouch said. “It’s because you can. If you want to get tickets to the Symphony, you’re supporting our friends at the Symphony; you’re supporting our friends at the Figge. Plus, there will be more artists who are cancer survivors in the auction.”
More upcoming activities
LPE is opening its next cancer survivor art exhibit in Dubuque on Aug. 16, at the University of Dubuque (they were last there in 2019). It will be at the Charles and Elizabeth Bisignano Gallery at the University of Dubuque through Sept. 28.
Jordan Kirkbride, program manager for LPE, said the art gallery is in the University’s Heritage Center. There will be an opening reception
Sept. 1 with artists and the general public. There are 25 artists who are exhibiting about 50 pieces, from a 200-mile radius of the Quad-Cities – including Chicago, Springfield, Dubuque and Newton, Iowa. The art media includes metalworking, photography, ceramics, quilted pieces, oil and watercolor paintings.
“Some of our artists are professional artists, while others use art as stress-relieving hobby,” according to livingproofexhibit.org. “But, no matter their background, our artists bring hope to our community and display the creative spirit of the cancer survivor through their artwork.” If you are a cancer survivor and looking to display your artwork, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about participating in the LPE 2022 exhibition at the Figge Art Museum.
“One of the wonderful things is that all the freshmen will be going to those galleries,” Crouch said of the University of Dubuque. Plus, the school has a very strong nursing program and physician assistant program, “so we’re going to get more of a health connection than we’ve ever done before,” she said.
“Another nice thing about the art gallery is, they’re working hard to make sure all their exhibitions are virtual, too,” Kirkbride said. “They’re posting videos, so people who live in Fairfield, Iowa, who can’t necessarily make it up to the exhibition, they’ll be able to see their artwork on
the wall, which is nice.”
On LPE’s virtual section of the website, you can take a virtual tour of art created by cancer survivors, listen to music performed by a Living Proof Exhibit board member, watch one of our Creative sessions and learn a new art medium, or learn how to use Haiku to reduce stress on the Living Proof Exhibit YouTube Channel.
LPE grant support comes from Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Cancer Consortium, Regional Development Authority (RDA), Moline Foundation, MidWest Hope and Healing, Scott County Regional Authority (SCRA), Humanities Iowa, Quad City Arts, and Knouse Trust. Flourish sponsors are UnityPoint Health Trinity, Royal Neighbors of America, Jan Masamoto, IH MIssissippi Valley Credit Union, Zimmerman Honda, WQAD, dPhilms, and Quad City Botanical Center.
LPE is targeting greater outreach to more diverse communities in the area, including more men, more types of cancers, Latinx and African-Americans.
“Every person and every community deals with a cancer diagnosis in a different way. Our mission is to use the arts to help reduce the stress of a cancer diagnosis and we continue to evolve to meet the needs of Quad Citizens impacted by cancer,” Crouch said. “We have had a six-year partnership with Azubuike African American Council for the Arts, primarily reaching African-American breast cancer survivors. We are expanding this outreach to include more men, other cancers, and people touched by cancer.
“Our 2020 outreach to the Latinx community in Muscatine was paused, but is back on track. We have bi-lingual multicultural journals that feature cover art created by a cancer survivor,” she said. “We will have three versions of these journals — one with art from a Black cancer
survivor, one with art from a Latinx cancer survivor, and one with art from a male cancer survivor. We have always held a very inclusive idea of what art is, and are continuing to do so by hiring artists from a varied background as well as Spanish-speaking artists. It’s important to take our mission into these communities and to have instructors from those communities.”
New available journals will be bilingual, with quotes from cancer survivors, and blank pages for art journaling or writing. The pages can lay flat on a table. For Flourish, there are 41 auction items, and here’s a description of some of them:
Coffee Chaos basket
donated by Gwen Tombergs, Jayne Behal, Starbucks
minimum bid: $80
Buy It Now! price: $300
1 bottle of Kahlua
1 bottle of Bailey’s Irish cream
4 cans of Guinness nitro cold brewed coffee
2 cans of International Delight Oreo iced coffee
1 can of Bang Heavenly Hazelnut keto coffee
1 can of Bang Mocha Madness keto coffee
1 bottle of Dunkin’ mocha iced coffee
1 bottle of Dunkin’ Girl Scout Thin Mints iced coffee
1 bottle of Torani salted caramel syrup
1 bottle of Torani vanilla syrup
1 package of Starbucks instant sweetened iced coffee
Bag of whole bean Starbucks Reserve Brazil coffee
Glass tumbler from Starbucks
Ceramic coffee mug from Starbucks
2 stoneware coffee mugs
Reusable straw and brush set from Starbucks
Aspiring Artist basket
donated by Marie Ziegler
minimum bid: $30
16 x 20 canvas
12 x 16 canvas
9 x 12 canvas
12 x 12 canvas
Clubhouse membership and 4 foursomes of golf
donated by Oakwood Country Club
minimum bid: $600
Cheers to Beer basket
donated by Terry VanWinkle
minimum bid: $25
30-can soft cooler
6-pack of Murderhorn Belgian Strong Golden Ale (Backpocket Brewing Company)
4-pack of Juice Factory American Pale Ale (Reunion Brewery)
4-pack of Pounder Indian Pale Ale (Reunion Brewery)
4-pack of Electric Banshee American Stout (Reunion Brewery)
2 16-oz beer mugs
Lily Pad with Water Lily
donated by Isabel Bloom
minimum bid: $40
Buy It Now! price: $165
Blue Sky Vibes pendant
donated by Inspiredesign Jewelry
minimum bid: $160
This sterling silver pendant slide features a checkerboard cut Swiss blue topaz accented with an oval sky blue topaz, and hangs on a sterling silver round omega chain.
Embracing Love basket
donated by Family of Marlene Gaston
minimum bid: $30
Isabel Bloom “Otter and Baby” (retired)
Blue art glass pendant
donated by John VandeWalle
minimum bid: $60
Buy It Now! price: $225
3 ft x 3 ft metal sculpture
Upcoming creative sessions (all hybrid, in person and through Zoom) will be:
Air Dry Clay
Tuesday, Aug. 10
6 pm – 8 pm
Gilda’s Moline Clubhouse – in partnership with Gilda’s Club
Instructor: Brian Allen
Thursday, Aug. 12
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Muscatine Art Center
Instructor: Latoya Lewis
Thursday, Sept. 9
5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Muscatine Art Center
Instructor: Megan Bishop
Tuesday, Sept. 14
6 pm – 8 pm
Quad City Botanical Center
Instructor: Amy Nielsen
The takeout menu for Flourish from (available for $35) Food Affair Bistro will be:
Cauliflower bisque, garnished with roasted cauliflower (VG, Veg, GF)
Caesar, Roma crunch, croutons, Parmesan Reggiano (Veg)
(Choose one main; includes two sides)
Pan roasted pork tenderloin, apple cider glaze
Sauté chicken marsala
Charbroiled Atlantic salmon
Channa masala (chickpea, roasted tomato and herb ragout) (Veg)
Smoked paprika roasted new potatoes
Buttered French beans
Double chocolate fudge brownie
Make your reservation by August 11 to reserve your meal, at www.livingproofexhibit.org/flourish.