Wednesday was a day not only for national celebration, with the inauguration, but for the Quad Cities Cultural Trust.

The organization gathered its six funded partners in person for the first time since the pandemic started, to mark exceeding its 2021

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

Gathering Wednesday morning to celebrate the new RME mural were Jen Dobrunz, left, Brian Baxter, Rachael Mullins, Kevin Maynard, Ami Porter, Michelle Hargrave and Tyson Danner.

fundraising goal; record-breaking allocations in 2020 for the partners, and a new Quad City Arts mural that bursts with color and purpose on the west side of the River Music Experience building at 2nd and Main streets, Davenport.

Over the last 13 years, QCCT has provided annual unrestricted funds (over $11 million total) to the Figge Art Museum, Putnam Museum & Science Center, Quad City Arts, Quad City Botanical Center, Quad City Symphony Orchestra, and River Music Experience.

While the trust had a three-year campaign to increase its endowment from under $25 million to $32 million, by 2021, QCCT raised $12.8 million in new pledges – allowing it to give out a record-breaking $1.6 million in 2020, including $400,000 in a first-time fall 2020 allocation, executive director Jen Dobrunz said Wednesday.

“It’s humbling to be a part of an organization that provided unprecedented funding in a pandemic year and also surpassed both of its stretch goals in a pandemic year,” she said. “I think it speaks to the spirit of our region. We live in a community that is committed to taking care if its own and we all do our part. The leadership and advocacy I have had the privilege of witnessing over the last year has been truly moving. I am so proud to be a part of this historic chapter for QCCT.”

The big 2020 push came after an historic 2019, when the trust distributed more than $1.1 million — a 21% increase from the year prior. It typically makes grants in the spring.

Since its 2007 founding by the John Deere FoundationBechtel Trusts and Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, the QCCT has provided critical

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

The QCCT partners gathered to meet at River Music Experience on Wednesday, in person for the first time since last March.

operational funding to create a sustainable platform for its funded partners.

Quad City Arts — which in turn grants to many area artists, schools and groups — has been a funded partner since 2017. Each group applies and the amount granted varies each year, Dobrunz said.

When the trust was created in 2007, the goal was to get the $11 million they started with to $32 million, to significantly increase support for the partners.

“Especially as the world opens back up, we are so proud of everything we do for the partners and so proud of how they use those dollars,” Dobrunz said Wednesday. “The more collectively we can combat the misconception that because the Cultural Trust is making strides, that doesn’t mean the community takes their foot off the gas pedal for these partners, right?

“It’s not one or the other; we need everyone to hear this rally cry and see these record-breaking, historic investments, and they need support now more than ever.”

“This was the first year we did a special fall grant,” she said. “It’s not something we’re adding permanently. It was just needed, so we did it, because we could.”

They pivoted to allocate more from their assets, providing more to each partner, since they exceeded their fundraising goal and the pandemic has been a financial drain on the nonprofits.

“I think it spoke to the need for the Cultural Trust, in real time,” Dobrunz said. “That phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ is absolutely

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

The QCCT was founded with investments by the John Deere Foundation, Bechtel Trusts and Hubbell-Waterman Foundation.

true, and we had an opportunity to put our actions in front of our words. If our mission is to provide financial sustainability for the partners, that they can provide cultural vitality for our region, and we have the funds to give more, then we should and we did.”

As people in the region saw the impact the pandemic had on the six partners, and how the QCCT stepped up, “it definitely reiterated the importance of the Cultural Trust’s existence in our community,” she said. “That will put us on the path to success in the region.”

“One of the many special things about the Cultural Trust is the dollars we provide are unrestricted,” Dobrunz said. “We know our partners are the experts. We know they have a stellar board of directors and they’re always evolving to the community’s needs. Right now, when we had the opportunity to do it, it was just a no-brainer. The more we give them, the more impact they provide.

“We want them to survive and we know they’re hurting now more than ever,” she said. “At the same time, with those wounds, they put out some really incredible things for our region, amidst all of that adversity, so we just wanted to capitalize on that.”

“This is about our economy, the economic drivers, and we want to be part of all that,” Dobrunz said.

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“The extra money is really helpful,” RME executive director Tyson Danner said. “Most of us have struggled through this past year. For the Cultural Trust board and leadership to realize that challenge and step up in such an extraordinary way was unexpected, but wonderful.”

“They really stepped up outside of the box,” he said, praising Dobrunz’s leadership. “a lot of it is due to Jen’s success in the campaign, that

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

Tyson Danner is executive director of River Music Experience.

they had the extra funds to distribute. That’s what it’s there for.”

“When the pandemic hit, I think we all prepared to extend that goal by a year or two, but our community thought differently,” QCCT trustee and campaign tri-chair Linda Bowers said. “It’s amazing to think about the impact these milestones will have for years to come.”

“These goals aren’t arbitrary. They were set because we knew they were mile markers to help our community grow,” Steve Bahls, QCCT chairman said. “We are committed to doing everything we can to make our partners stronger.”

“The Cultural Trust for us, in a traditional year those unrestricted dollars help us innovate and grow programming, and during a time like we’re living through right now, it brings a sense of stability,” Quad City Arts executive director Kevin Maynard said Wednesday. “So we have unrestricted dollars to continue to operate, maintain, and serve our mission in this volatile time period.”

Anonymous gift fuels new mural

When QCCT was close to exceeding the campaign goal this past summer, there were some excited donors who wanted to be part of a celebration, Dobrunz said.

“They wanted a symbol for the community, to have survived 2020, to have accomplished this together – something that encompassed what we call this campaign: culture matters here, and it always will,” she said of the new RME mural.

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

One side of the 13-foot-tall mural done by the Quad City Arts Metro arts program, finished last fall.

Through the generosity of one anonymous donor, they thought there would be no better way to do that than invite the community’s future – students – to represent all the QCCT partners in a mural that beautifully frames the Main Street entrance of RME and artistically reflects all the partners.

The donor gave early in the campaign, and wanted to include more for the mural, Dobrunz said. “When we accomplished the goal in the summer, they were shocked and asked how are you going to celebrate in a pandemic?” she recalled. “Our short answer was, we will when everything waked up. We’re just gonna keep our nose down and do the work.

“They said, no, let’s celebrate this. We have to do something,” she said. “So this is where we got to.”

“We’re grateful for the community and what they were able to accomplish,” Dobrunz said. “I feel like everything that’s happened is a reflection of our region and coming together, doing something unprecedented. It’s pretty much the identity of the Quad-Cities.”

Of lead artist Sarah Robb of Davenport, and six teen apprentices with Quad City Arts’ Metro Arts program, “They did their homework,” Dobrunz said.

“They talked to our partners, how we’re so proud and they kind of connected with some donors’ perspectives, on why they support our partners,” she said. “They brought forward this incredible piece that is so intricate – you can see the lily pads and water flowing, and it makes you think of the Botanical Center.

“You see the Figge’s beautiful building and the skyline, the fireworks that represent our celebration, and the way people enjoy that Figge building,” Dobrunz said. Music in the two large squares (about 13 feet high and across) represents RME, Quad City Arts and the Quad City Symphony.

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

Flowers, music and fireworks over the Figge represent some of the six cultural groups funded by Quad Cities Cultural Trust.

Where they placed it also was vital, she said, as QCCT founders wanted to support places like RME.

“Everything about this mural has meaning,” Bowers said. “It’s located on the side of the RME Building, one of QCCT’s original partners. Our founders walked the sidewalks in front of our beautiful mural 14 years ago, dreaming of a day we would celebrate these milestones. Local students created and installed the piece through the QC Arts program, and it encompasses all six of our partners. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this moment in time.”

Robb (a Metro Arts veteran) worked with paid apprentices this past summer on new murals in downtown Moline and at Friendship Manor, Rock Island. She and the half-dozen students (some from prior Metro Arts years) worked from late September at RME, on scaffolding, completing the mural within four weeks, Maynard said.

“This one was kind of an extended design process, only because it was really important for Jen and the QCCT to have all of the entities or partners represented in the murals,” he said. “They did a really great job.”

“Because of the short turnaround on this mural, these were artists who had worked with us before in some fashion, not just last summer,”

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

Davenport artist Sarah Robb and six paid Metro Arts apprentices worked about four weeks on the mural.

Maynard said. “I’ll say one of my favorite things about the mural isn’t actually on the mural itself, but the bee that’s flying on the left,” he said, noting that draws a viewer’s attention from 2nd Street down Main to see the mural.

This was the first time in the 20-year history of Metro Arts that QCCT has funded a mural project, he said. Since the summer of 2000, Metro Arts has provided area youth 15-21 years old with paid summer apprenticeships in various arts disciplines. The program provides opportunities for youth and enhances the community through the arts.

Danner – who formerly worked for Quad City Arts and headed Metro Arts – said the RME mural was especially exciting.

“We’re always thinking about ways we can participate more in the downtown community,” he said of the 17-year-old nonprofit. “We do a lot of programming but to have something that beautifies the street on a permanent basis is pretty cool.

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

The new mural at RME frames the Main Street entrance of the downtown Davenport building.

“It’s great for us too, since we have two entrances, but a lot of people don’t realize that side entrance is there,” Danner said.

Continuing to meet and collaborate

Even during the pandemic, Dobrunz and the QCCT partners have met monthly over Zoom to talk about everything going on, share ideas for growth and possibilities for collaboration.

“Because things were changing so rapidly, it gave us an opportunity to talk through issues and some of the potential problems on the horizon we were all facing,” Maynard said. “It was very beneficial. The trust has stepped up their role this year, to highlight their importance.

“We’re figuring out ways we can work together,” he said. “We can’t always work with all our partners…We love to collaborate and partner together when it makes the most sense.”

Of the six partners, five are under new chief executives since 2018 — the QCSO’s Brian Baxter (starting February 2018), Q-C Arts’ Kevin

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

Kevin Maynard is executive director of Quad City Arts.

Maynard (December 2018), RME’s Tyson Danner (April 2019), Putnam’s Rachael Mullins (July 2019), and Figge’s Michelle Hargrave (December 2019). Ami Porter has been with QC Botanical Center for 15 years.

“One of the things a lot of people don’t know about the Cultural Trust is, we fund – but we also are a convener and meet monthly,” Dobrunz said, adding they also had an annual meeting Tuesday of trustees and representatives of the trust founding organizations (called trustors).

“We talk about things happening in our region, at the state level, things happening in the federal level. We share staffing hurdles or accomplishments, whatever is good for the cause and makes us stronger.”

She joined QCCT in 2018 as director of the fundraising campaign and became executive director in August 2019. Their mission is to provide long-term, sustainable funding for the six nonprofits, to cover operational costs and balance their budgets. The trust gives unrestricted funds for things like staffing and utilities, so they can focus on new programming, Dobrunz said.

Studies show that art and culture are an economic driver and QCCT believes the best fuel is unrestricted dollars into deeply-rooted cultural amenities.

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

Cultural Trust executive director Jen Dobrunz standing in front of a map of the Quad-Cities.

While QCCT is proud of what has been accomplished, they know the work isn’t done yet, Dobrunz said. The board and trustors (from Deere Foundation, Bechtel Trusts and Hubbell-Waterman Foundation) will dedicate the first few months of 2021 to goal setting and funding plans, she said.

Bahls (president of Augustana College) emphasized the beginning of the next chapter.

“To every donor, past and present trustee, past and present trustor, honorary chairs, tri-chairs, campaign committee and our partner organizations: thank you for your support, partnership, and generosity,” he said. “This is the moment we dreamed of 13 years ago when QCCT was formed. Your generosity and

Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME

QCCT board member Linda Bowers, left, with executive director Jen Dobrunz.

visionary thinking will allow art and culture to grow in perpetuity in our region.

“We know now is the time to double down on our support for art and culture. Thank you for getting us to this point. We are ready to begin this next and important chapter because Culture Matters Here and it always will,” Bahls said.

Every year, the partners apply for funding, and are reviewed according to innovation, collaboration, diversifying revenue, staffing, and issues related to the Q2030 action plan. Funding amounts vary year to year, according to organization needs.

An in-person public celebration for the RME mural is likely later this year, Dobrunz said. For more information, visit qcct.org.

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Quad Cities Cultural Trust Celebrates Fundraising Campaign, New Mural at RME
Jonathan Turner has been covering the Quad-Cities arts scene for 25 years, first as a reporter with the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, and then as a reporter with the Quad City Times. Jonathan is also an accomplished actor and musician who has been seen frequently on local theater stages, including the Bucktown Revue and Black Box Theatre.