Like many artistic endeavors since March, the Quad City Arts’ subscription series of benefit parties featuring artists from the Visiting Artist Series program will move online this fall with a virtual dinner and a show.

Performing Arts Signature Series, or PASS, will not have in-person events for the fall. The series will instead offer a unique experience with take-out from a premium local restaurant paired with access to an online performance by a visiting artist who recorded a

Margot Day is performing arts director at Quad City Arts.

performance specifically for this event.

The following performers are scheduled to appear:

Thursday, Oct. 15: John Patti, steel pans (drums)

Thursday, Nov. 5: Ho Etsu Taiko, Japanese drumming

Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021: Sultans of String, folk/rock string trio

Tickets include a digital link to the performance and take-out dinner from either Crust in Bettendorf or Combine in East Moline using a “prix fixe” menu created for this event. A link to the menus with instructions for placing orders will be provided in advance.

Access to the performance will be sent to subscribers by 4 p.m. the day of the event and all orders placed in advance will be available at 5:30 p.m. for pickup. Subscribers can purchase the series of three parties for a discount ($140 per person), as well as single dinner and show for $50 or a “show only” option for $20.

In the past, PASS events were $50 per person, typically held at venues throughout the Quad-Cities, where guests can enjoy complimentary cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a spotlight performance with a world-class visiting artist in residence through the Visiting Artist Series, and an opportunity for guests to mingle with the artists.

A PASS event in 2019 at Rock Island’s Watch Tower Lodge.

The full season usually consists of six parties from September to April. Quad City Arts remains committed to finding new ways of bringing arts experiences to the community, until the time when we can safely gather again for in-person events, executive director Kevin Maynard said Wednesday.

The virtual PASS shows won’t be livestreamed performances, but pre-recorded.

“We had talked about it with some of the artists, and really we were running into some different hurdles,” Maynard said. “For a lot of the artists, they can provide a good quality pre-recorded video, but some of the artists just don’t have the technology to do a consistent livestream.”

The costs for the PASS events are the same as the in-person in the past, Maynard said. The food is different, with a dinner, rather than a bar and hors d’oeuvres.

Quad City Arts plans to schedule more events in the first half of 2021. “Depending on what all is happening in the world, our ideal situation would be to do some sort of hybrid event, to have people back in person,” he said. “We want to be able to make that decision when we know a little more. We don’t want to rush anything, so we’re being as safe as possible.”

Kevin Maynard is executive director of Quad City Arts.

“One of my favorite aspects of the PASS series is, as an audience member, you are able to ask a question, able to find out and really see what these artists are doing in the schools,” Maynard said during his Oct. 1 “7 With Kevin Live” video with performing arts director Margot Day, who runs the Visiting Artist Series.

“They’re not doing the exact same program when they get in front of our PASS audience. Our audience is able to ask them.”

“It gives the opportunity for the artists to really share their experiences,” he said. “What is interesting is, the artists end up learning a lot and end up really valuing the program for different reasons than we value the program.”

With the reimagined online events, “The nice thing is the two restaurants are great choices,” Maynard said of Crust in Bettendorf and The Combine in East Moline. “I think it will be fun and exciting, a little change of pace.”

“One of the biggest reasons for PASS is those ticket sales goes to support the Visiting Artist Series,” he said. “To make things of this caliber happen, it just offsets some of those costs. You’re helping to put artists in front of 33,000 students.”

An online Visiting Artist Series

All proceeds from these events directly supports the Visiting Artist Series (VAS), a performing arts residency program presenting music, dance, and theatre for school and community site audiences.

The VAS has moved to an all-online format this season and will provide schools with access to videos demonstrations, brief performances, study guides, and streamed live performances that teachers can build into their curriculum.

Steel drum artist John Patti will be the first PASS performer Oct. 15.

The overall costs for Visiting Artist Series will be less than a typical year, he said.

“The other benefit is, this has the potential to reach more students in our six-county region,” Maynard said. “Traditionally, most of our homeschool groups would end up seeing a visiting artist at a library or community site. This year, we will be able to give them direct access to the same resources that the schools have access to.”

The VAS (usually 10 to 12 artists in a school year) is traditionally provided free for schools and other locations. In 2019-20, 24,649 K-12 students were reached through the program – in which two residencies had to be canceled in March and April due to Covid-19.

“The Visiting Artist Series – we want to make sure that students represented in our community can see themselves represented on stage,” Maynard said of the diverse lineup of artists. “We also want to give our students a look into other cultures, and other styles of music. Really, just help all our students to be more aware of the world outside of our community.”

The artists in this new online portal (still being developed at quadcityarts.com) will be:

John Patti had to have his planned Visiting Artist residency in the Q-C canceled last spring.

This year as a virtual series (available for free 24/7) will definitely be different, he said.

“I don’t think anybody can argue the fact that seeing live music or seeing art in person makes a difference,” Maynard said. “Being in a large group setting, with other people, affects the way you view or feel about a performance. There definitely will be different aspects. This has the potential to go a little deeper, or spark that curiosity that pushes the student – even a teacher – to look at the next step, the next level and go a bit deeper on a topic.”

“Like everything else that’s been an in-person event this year, we had to reinvent it,” Day said last week. “Every other season has been about having an artist in a school gym, or in an auditorium in front of students. When that wasn’t an option, I thought an online database or a resource center might work.”

For the first time, all the artist videos will be available at the same time, not just one residency at a time, she said.

Ho Etsu Taiko, a Chicago-based Japanese drumming group, will be featured in November.

“We’re really excited to share that with everyone,” Maynard said.

When Maynard asked Day what she loves most about the VAS, she said: “That it’s stupid big; I mean that in a loving way. I know it really well. I’ve been involved with it for five years. It’s a big project – it’s massive, really important work, especially when you think about kids who wouldn’t otherwise get to attend a live theater production or they don’t get to see live dance, because that’s not part of their daily lives.”

“I’m thankful that someone long ago thought, ‘Hey, let’s create an actual position, a job in the arts, for someone to direct the series,” Day said. “Volunteers can do a lot and we’re thankful for what they do, but sometimes you need someone who’s working on this year-round, full-time, to get this program going and maintained.

“This is our 47th season and you can’t just piece it together after 45 years,” she said. “I get to go to conferences, showcases, I get to meet all these wonderful performers and agents, and then I get to come back to the Quad-Cities. Who else gets to sit in an elementary gym on a random October Monday afternoon, listening to Canadian jazz? No, it’s just me, and I love it ‘cause that’s my job and it’s just incredible.”

For more information on the PASS artists or to purchase tickets, visit www.quadcityarts.com/pass. Spring season events are yet to be announced.

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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.