Quad Cities Cultural Trust Truly Ready to “Paint the Town” June 8
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After 15 months of coping with the crazy Covid pandemic, we all need a day to get out, have fun and paint the town. That’s exactly what the Quad Cities Cultural Trust has planned for Tuesday, June 8, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
That’s when the free, family-friendly “Paint the Town” event will be at River Music Experience, 129 Main St., Davenport. Including food, drinks, live music, and children’s activities, the festival will celebrate past milestones and announce future goals for the 14-year-old QCCT – encompassing all six QCCT partners as well as other cultural amenities in our region.
Founded in 2007 and funded by the John Deere Foundation, Hubbell-Waterman Foundation and Bechtel Trusts, the QCCT has provided annual unrestricted funds (over $12 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 campaign to increase its endowment from under $25 million to $32 million, by the end of 2021, QCCT raised $12.8
million in new pledges a year early – allowing it to give out a record-breaking $1.6 million in 2020, including $400,000 in a first-time fall 2020 allocation (given in two parts).
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, and funding for each partner varies each year, based on detailed applications.
The QCCT had been an anomaly because it was a privately-funded entity until 2019, when it formally launched its first public campaign, said Jen Dobrunz, executive director since August 2019.
In past years, the QCCT has typically made grant awards in June, but this year that was moved up to May, to give them more clarity, since fiscal years usually start July 1. The six funded partners recently received a total of nearly $1.3 million from QCCT.
“Normally, we are funding end of June, beginning of July when those fiscal years are starting, but we wanted them to have more financial planning, so we’ve been trying to move that process up to get them to a better place,” Dobrunz said recently.
Before they reached the $32-million milestone, the trust would distribute only dividend income from their endowment, she said.
“They would say, here’s what we can afford to invest,” she said of trustees. “When we launched that campaign, the first year in 2019, we gave a record-breaking distribution, which was a 21-percent increase. Then we were really excited about that and the campaign kept going really well, then Covid hit and we were still able in 2020 to do another record-breaking distribution and we did it early because of the success of the campaign.”
In May 2020, after the global Covid pandemic hit, the QCCT hadn’t reached its milestone yet. After it exceeded the $32-million goal, they had the ability to do a rare second distribution – emergency grants given last October and January.
“Now we’re in this new normal, when we hit the $32-million milestone,” Dobrunz said. “The concept at the trust inception – the founders, the trustors believed mathematically that it would take $1.6 million to provide sufficient, unrestricted operational dollars to the partners. In their mind, $1.6 million would allow for sustainable funding – not 100% complete funding, but it would allow enough funding for the partners to be financially stable.”
Everything the trust has done is to reach the level of giving out 5 percent of its endowment each year, and 5 percent of $32 million is $1.6 million.
“The bonus has been – not only did we reach the $32-million milestone, we exceeded it and we’re at $36 million,” Dobrunz said. “We talk about how we can responsibly invest these forever dollars, but also generously invest in our partners annually, and finding that new balance.
It’s not just dividend income, it’s more than that.”
In 2019, the QCCT gave out over $1 million for the first time, after averaging about $800,000 a year, she said. From a nonprofit standpoint, to have three years where they’ve gone up in grants, that’s a lot.
“We’re really proud of that,” Dobrunz said. The return on investments, what the partners have done in a pandemic year, “it’s incredible,” she said.
It was a challenge to review grant applications this spring, since the past year has been so different, and each of the organizations provided programs in a much different way than normal years – shifting a lot to online, virtual delivery. They were literally comparing cultural apples to oranges.
“The trustees have done a great job of celebrating the individuality of every partner,” Dobrunz said of the QCCT board. “The biggest question has been, have our partners been able to maintain mission during these unprecedented times, and how have they done that? The creativity, the partnership and the innovation – the impact is still there, and sometimes it’s stronger than it’s been.”
“They’re still doing everything they need to be doing,” she said of the partners, noting they couldn’t compare in-person visits in 2020 to 2019 to gauge effectiveness, since Covid turned everything upside down.
“You’re on this virtual learning platform, where impressions may have quadrupled,” Dobrunz said, noting her young son. “Your Henrys of the world – like my Henry – we’re in the living room watching Bret Dale (of RME) do his lesson, rather than doing a lesson in the studio.”
“We’re always going to be data-driven; some of the cool things that we have done – we’re aligning ourselves with Q2030,” Dobrunz said of the regional strategic plan. “We’re asking a lot of financial questions about how our partners are producing economic vibrancy, and we use the Americans for the Arts economic prosperity calculator. That’s a standard of excellence, to truly quantify how much we are bringing into the Quad-City region through our partners.”
Rebounding nationally and locally
Nationally, financial losses to nonprofit arts and culture organizations are an estimated $16.5 billion to date, according to a recent Americans for the Arts study.
Nearly all producing and presenting organizations have cancelled events — a loss of 528 million cancelled ticketed admissions impacting both
arts organizations and audiences. Additionally, local area businesses, such as restaurants, lodging, retail, and parking, have also been impacted by cancelled arts and culture events with a loss of $16.6 billion in audience ancillary spending.
Local government revenue losses are also now topping $5.6 billion with 970,000 in jobs negatively affected as a resulted of cancelled events.
Prior to the pandemic, the nation’s arts and culture sector (nonprofit, commercial, education) was a $919.7-billion industry that supported 5.2 million jobs and represented 4.3% of the nation’s economy in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Arts, entertainment, and recreation jobs dropped from 2.5 million in February 2020 to 1.2 million in April 2020 (-53%). By January 2021, jobs rebounded to 1.7 million and are up to 1.9 million in April 2021. Positive news, but arts jobs are still down 25% since pre-pandemic.
Nonprofit arts and culture are a $71.34 million industry in the Q-C region — one that supports 1,906 full time equivalent jobs and generates $7.79 million in local and state government revenue, according to QCCT.
“Supporting Quad-Cities arts and culture makes practical sense,” its website says. “Spending by cultural tourists pours more sales and hotel tax dollars into municipal coffers, which means fewer cuts in city services and a decreased likelihood of tax increases — good news for
“Our partners are bringing in economic dollars with what they’re doing,” Dobrunz said. That may be harder to judge without as many in-person visits and attendance at events this past year.
“It’s still happening, which is amazing. It’s not zero,” she said. “We still had things happening. We still had people safely coming into town, to tour a new exhibit, like ‘For America’ (at the Figge). We still had people coming, doing social distanced pops concerts outdoors. It was still happening, it was just happening in a different way. And it was also happening – rather than one big item, it was a lot of smaller settings.”
Dobrunz recalled attending a QCSO concert in December with her daughters, with no one sitting near them at the Adler Theatre. “It’s an intimate, amazing experience, but also sad because you can’t feel that energy from people right next to you,” she said.
“But they still did it and I think that’s the most important thing,” Dobrunz said. “It would have been easy to quit; it would have been easy to say, we’ll just wait this out. They didn’t – they kept going.”
Her family also did curbside caroling with RME during the holidays; the “Winter Lights” at Quad City Botanical Center; the Putnam’s home “Polar Express” kit, and a Figge virtual class to make holiday ornaments. Dobrunz’s daughters are 9 and 7, and her son is 2.
At the symphony with a small audience, “it was encouraging and heartbreaking,” she said. “The power of the music is still there; you still get
the goosebumps. You’re still completely filled with civic pride that this level of talent is in your own backyard.
“But you’re sad that you as a community can’t come together in the way you’re used to, and enjoy it,” Dobrunz said. “I’m proud of them for pushing through it.”
One reason many orchestras across the country had to completely cancel in-person concerts was they don’t have a funding entity like QCCT, she said.
“When tourism falls, you forfeit those things,” Dobrunz said of other cities. “We live in a community when on a good day, you have this extra fuel that is Cultural Trust investments, to make it even better, and on a really bad day, we don’t say we’re going to stop. You have the Cultural Trust dollars to keep your head above water.”
She went to see “For America” at the Figge twice, and said it was very powerful.
“The way they organized it, by floor, was great,” Dobrunz said. “The minute that something struck me, I lost track of time. It was having this experience, seeing the pieces, reading the story, looking at it again.”
The emotions of paintings were very different from floor to floor, including the loss and exhaustion of war, she noted. “The things that people took away from their life and gratitude was so different. And the next floor, when you get to innovation and excitement, and we’re waking up. It’s really colorful and fun, and you could feel in real time, every floor I could resonate with.”
The blockbuster traveling exhibit, “For America: 200 Years of Painting from the National Academy of Design” was at Davenport’s Figge Art Museum from Feb. 20 to May 16, 2021. It attracted an average of about 500 visitors a week (or 6,000 total), which was much less than the over 36,000 people who came from 47 states to see “French Moderns: Monet to Matisse, 1850-1950” between October 2018 and January 2019.
The online tour offers a vast array of resources, including a 10-minute video of the exhibit (narrated by assistant curator Vanessa Sage); gallery views of the Figge exhibit (which was on the first, second and third floors) – where you can control the navigation of what to see — as well as a slide show of all 99 individual artworks, where you can see detailed information on each artist and painting.
The site also includes an audio introduction to “For America” from Hargrave, docent videos, regional artists audio, gallery event videos, educational information, and art activities such as video demonstrations of portrait and landscape painting from Rhiannon Ashmore of the Figge education department.
Q-C arts groups expertly pivoted
Scott Van Vooren, chair of the QCCT board and a partner at the law firm Lane & Waterman, is very impressed with how the partners adapted to Covid.
“I think all of the partners have pivoted,” he said recently. “They’ve all done a really good job in a very difficult year of pivoting. They’ve gone
out and tried to diversify revenue streams. I think they’ve done a pretty good job of it, all six of them. Some of them have had to shut down but they found ways to reopen safely and that’s been impressive. Each of the executive directors I think has done a very good job in that.”
Van Vooren credited the QCCT campaign committee and the founding trustors for their work in fundraising.
“They met tirelessly, they came up with a plan. They executed the plan. This is the first time that the Quad City Cultural Trust has gone to our community asking for one-time gifts,” he said. “Pretty good story to tell. Fourteen years of sustained investment by the Quad City Cultural Trust and its partners. Which in turn has been used by the partners to strengthen their organizations.”
How difficult was it to exceed the big goal during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, that devastated economies?
“It’s incredibly encouraging and gratifying to see the community come together during these times the last year and half,” Van Vooren said. “Jen has spoken about this to our prospective donors. It’s a big reminder to the public that the Cultural Trust has helped fuel these arts
institutions in good times and tough times with unrestricted dollars. It helps certainty. It provides security.”
“It helps foster innovation because I’ve been able to see at least before the pandemic, what these six have planned on doing. And unfortunately I’ve also seen and experienced what the pandemic has done to some of those plans,” he said.
“We’ve got to get through the pandemic yet but you know, we see the light at the end of the tunnel and they’re all planning again. That’s really encouraging but the community has been outstanding and it’s been great.”
“It truly demonstrates the generosity of the Quad-Cities,” Van Vooren said.
“By being able to give these funds to our partners, it fuels educational impact, and the economic vibrancy of our community throughout the years,” he said. “And we’ve been doing this for about 14 years now, besides the funding component, we’ve been bringing together the executive directors of the six partners to discuss nonprofit management, best practices, diversity, equity, inclusion, Q2030, and we talked quite a bit about strategic planning this past year.
“Unfortunately, we’ve talked a lot about pandemic funding, resource sharing, the exhibit collaboration and I think it just makes all of our six partner of groups stronger,” Van Vooren said. “We can lean on and learn from each other. That’s been very important, but on top of that, we provide our art and cultural partners with unrestricted funding and that allows them to not worry about having funding. It helps strengthen their organizations, to maintain their missions and stay relevant.”
“Since its founding, the QCCT has been the strong foundation upon which the success of the area’s pillar cultural institutions has been built,” RME executive director Tyson Danner said. “That has never been more true than the past year, when the Trust worked hard to ensure the permanent stability of the partners with an additional, unscheduled distribution in response to the pandemic.
“We’re thrilled to finally be able to celebrate – in person – the completion of the QCCT’s recent campaign, and all the powerful impact that support has made possible through the work of our partner organizations,” he said.
“The Cultural Trust in a normal year allows us to innovate but in a pandemic gear it allows you to keep moving forward,” said Kevin Maynard, executive director of Quad City Arts.
“This past year, their support was incredible and it for us, just the way our fiscal year is laid out. It not only helps us for 2020, but will help us for 2021, getting us back on track and back to the level of programming that we were at in 2019.”
“They’ve been able to give us an increase in that total amount for the past couple of years,” Maynard said. “So I mean that’s always a great thing. So with what the Cultural Trust gave us, it helped keep us pretty whole.”
Quad City Arts was forced to shelve its in-person, 35th-annual Festival of Trees this past year, but actually saw an increase in total donations, thanks to a televised Day of Giving, he said. Quad City Arts raised $77,000 through the Day of Giving, but doesn’t release its total Festival of Trees donation amount, Maynard said.
Like many artistic endeavors due to Covid, the Quad City Arts’ subscription series of benefit parties featuring artists
from the Visiting Artist Series program moved online last fall with a virtual dinner and a show.
Performing Arts Signature Series, or PASS, didn’t have in-person events, as the Visiting Artist Series was not in person the past school year. The six-concert series instead offered 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 performance specifically for the event.
The online series attracted about half of what the past special celebrations with visiting artists have, Maynard said.
“If I’m being honest, that’s what I expected, because it’s a completely different format,” he said. “It’s not the same experience that seeing an artist in person and you should be able to directly interact and talk with that artist.”
Margot Day, who heads the Visiting Artist Series, is finalizing some special guest artists in person for this summer, Maynard said.
“We will be inviting three to four artists to visit us for some short residencies this summer. And then we will have more in the fall,” he said. “We’re still waiting for confirmation from the school districts as to whether they will allow visitors, but we do plan to have some visiting artists in our community regardless of that — so that they can visit some community sites if the schools aren’t available.
“But we are optimistic and it does look like we will be able to visit at least some of the schools in the fall,” Maynard said.
The Putnam Museum & Science Center, Davenport, during the pandemic was able to fund and build a new World Culture Gallery, which opened with a ribbon-cutting Friday (May 21). Funded by Bechtel Trusts, Scott County Regional Authority, the Putnam Museum Guild and numerous private donors and trustees, the $300,000 project is the first of its scale since the museum’s opening of a Science Center in 2014.
The Quad City Botanical Center, Rock Island, earlier this month formally opened its phase two addition to the Children’s Garden. This exciting interactive play exhibit expands the popular water feature and includes a naturalized pond, representative of the Mississippi River headwaters in Lake Itasca, Minn. And while the vaunted New York Philharmonic only welcomed patrons back indoors for the first time since Covid last month (in The Shed at Manhattan’s Hudson Yards), the QCSO has been performing for audiences at Davenport’s Adler Theatre since early October 2020.
It also had a hugely successful outdoor pops concert last weekend at LeClaire Park starring “Hamilton” Tony winner Renee Elise Goldsberry, which was previously planned for the Adler.
Fulfilling a promise
The June 8 “Paint the Town” fulfills a promise made to donors that the QCCT would have a public celebration of meeting the ambitious financial goals, Van Vooren (a board member since 2017) said.
“We want to thank the donors and the community for understanding the importance of arts and culture,” he said. “And this is our hope after the celebration is over. We’d like to see everyone leave the celebration with more civic pride. I mean we have a lot in our community to be proud of — with so many organizations locally that provide great experiences for all ages and we want to showcase that. And we hope people leave with more civic pride or at least renewed civic pride for sure.”
The trust’s next major milestone is to hit $40 million in assets, Van Vooren said.
“Paint the Town” will feature a closed-off Main Street next to RME, between 2nd Street and River Drive.
“We’re gonna paint the town – we’re inviting the community to a free event that’s all about arts and culture, and use it as a milestone event,” Dobrunz said. “It’s the importance of us surpassing the $32-million goal and what it means for our community, and what’s next for the Cultural Trust, why we are ready to climb the next mountain.”
All six partners are participating in it – including live music from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The all-local performer lineup will include:
- Singer/songwriter Sarah Jayne Dixon
- Spoken word poet Altease
- Quad City Symphony brass quintet
- Teen singer/songwriter and recent The Voicecontestant Charlotte Boyer
- Maureen Carter and Mo&Co
All QCCT partners will have educational, family-friendly exhibits and activities outside – from plants, art and science, to kazoos.
One reason it’s called “Paint the Town,” they will have 12 big planters that people can paint, as a symbol of the QCCT slogan of “Culture matters here and it always will,” Dobrunz said. They will be placed throughout the community (including at each partner site), and the
Botanical Center will fill them with plants and flowers.
“The whole point is, we’re back. We never left; culture matters here and it always will,” she said. “Art and culture is important; we need to use it, need to believe in it. We need to support it. We’re using the event to create tangible items we can use to truly paint our community in pretty colors.”
Quad City Arts will invite people to do sidewalk or street chalk murals, and to take part in creating part of the entire event logo.
“We’re using this as a platform to spread the news of things people can look forward to this summer,” Dobrunz said, noting the Quad City Arts annual Chalk Art Fest, June 26-27 at Rock Island’s Schwiebert Park. “People should be able to safely enjoy them.”
The QCCT will invite some of the major donors to its campaign if they want one of the planters, she said, as a symbol of what they helped accomplish.
“The more we give, the more we get,” she said of QCCT fundraising. “We’ve done three years of record-breaking distributions and the more we put into these organizations, the more this community is getting. It’s not about how many people walk through the door.
“It’s about putting the Quad-Cities in a line of 100 communities of the same size and telling me how many actually had their Science Center stay alive through it,” Dobrunz said of the Putnam. “How many had a huge exhibition actually get installed and come to fruition in a pandemic year? It’s not a lot. I feel like, you can still defend the statement, the more you put into them, the more our community is getting out.”
“Let’s get greedy and put more into them, so we can get more out,” she said. “That’s what they’ve all continued to prove. They won’t stop,
which is awesome.”
A year after Quad City Arts had a virtual Chalk Art Fest (with submitted photos of entries), the 5th-annual version will be at Rock Island’s Schwiebert Park for the first time, which will give people more room to park and spread out. Quad City Arts is also having much more live music over the two days than usual.
“We have always had a couple performers, but this year the entire amount will have live music throughout,” Maynard said. “It will help entertain the artists but obviously it just helps draw some people out to see the works in progress versus sort of just and when they’re completed.”
That event will be 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 26, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, June 27, with music starting at 11 a.m. each day – including an iHeart DJ, Chrash, Rude Punch and Doug Brundies the first day, and Mo&Co, QC Rock Academy, and Charlotte Boyer the second.
Visitors strolling by can see the wonderful works of art as they come to life, vote for their favorite and even do some chalk art of their own, by taking part in the community piece. A variety of food and drink vendors and children’s activities are all part of the festivities. Over $1,600 in cash prizes will be awarded (with a $500 first prize), including a people’s choice and youth category award.
Admiring a mural and community leader
The June 8 event will also pay tribute to a remarkable new mural on the Main Street side of RME and a priceless community leader who helped QCCT blow past its goal.
Dobrunz and the leaders of the QCCT funded partners met in January at RME to celebrate exceeding the campaign goal and completion of a new mural created to frame the Main Street entrance of the historic building.
The huge, colorful mural – led by artist Sarah Robb and Quad City Arts’ Metro Arts program – aimed to visually represent all the QCCT partners. It was made possible by an anonymous donor to the trust.
Danner of RME said everyone loves the mural.
“Our Main Street entrance has always been an area we felt needed more attention, and thanks to the Trust’s support and Quad City Arts’ team of young artists, we were able to bring something unique and colorful to our primary entrance,” he said.
“And the fact that it is so representative and all-encompassing of the Trust partners makes it all the more special.”
“You’re in front of an historic building with a beautiful mural that reminds you of what’s been accomplished,” Dobrunz said. “You’re literally walking down the same streets the founders walked down 14 years ago when they said, we should probably do something to sustain arts and culture if we want to be a competitive community that people want to move to, before Q2030 was a thing.”
“It’s coming full circle — it’s time to celebrate that and talk about how we make that circle bigger,” she said.
Dobrunz will also announce where the trust is with the Dale Owen fund, named for the beloved late CEO of Ascentra Credit Union, who died last fall from cancer.
A Rock Island native and Augustana College alum, Owen became QCCT campaign tri-chair – in the midst of the trust fundraising campaign with Ruhl & Ruhl President Chris Beason and retired executive Linda Bowers.
“Dale had big ideas. He wanted to bring his competitors together,” Dobrunz said. “The idea of lending and banking institutions coming together to invest in the future of art and culture in our region was one of those big ideas, and one of a kind.”
While battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Owen in 10 months worked to raise $500,000 from 11 local lending and banking institutions, including Bettendorf-based Ascentra. Together, those participants agreed to rename this project The Dale Owen Art and Culture Match.
It would match every $1 given up to $500,000 to support art and culture programs in the Quad-Cities through QCCT. The collaboration created by Owen among the financial institutions was unprecedented, Dobrunz said.
“It was organic for him to just really focus on the lending community and give them an opportunity to all come together,” she said, noting Owen had become one of three QCCT board chairs (or “tri-chair”) just in January 2020.
He was asked by outgoing tri-chair John Anderson, CEO at Quad City Bank & Trust, who was to leave the board.
Owen’s initial goal from the Q-C financial community was to raise $250,000 and later leverage those dollars as a public match, to turn it into $500,000 or $1 million, Dobrunz said.
When Covid hit the community, he didn’t waver, Dobrunz said. “In fact, he was more convinced than ever of this idea. He saw the local banking sector working together like never before.”
The participants included Deere Employees Credit Union, Dutrac Community Credit Union, The Family Credit Union, Green State Credit Union, IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union, Quad City Bank & Trust, R.I.A. Federal Credit Union, US Bank, Vibrant Credit Union, and Wells Fargo.
The half-million-dollar milestone was bittersweet as Owen passed away at 52 on Nov. 14, 2020. (Linda Andry in April was named new president/CEO of the credit union, after serving as interim CEO since June 2020.)
“The community responded very positively to that dollar-for-dollar match,” Dobrunz said of public support for the Owen fund.
Every year, the QCCT partners don’t ask for a specific dollar amount, but all fill out the same application. Trustees review them and do interviews of each. They look at financial sustainability, programmatic excellence, cultural vitality and how the organizations matter to the area.
“That’s how we invest the dollars,” Dobrunz said. “There’s a competitive process to it.”
“The conversation shifts, even through a pandemic, to – what are they putting out there?” she said of the partners. “Do they have a strategic plan? How strong is their board? Are they cognizant of diversity, equity and inclusion measures? What are they doing to promote Q2030 and be a part of the economic vibrancy of our region?”
“I’m so grateful for our trustees, because they have a really hard job,” Dobrunz said. “They have to find the balance of giving as we can responsibly every year, and still building up a corpus that we want to last forever. I want to just give it all, but then I want to keep it.”
To learn more about QCCT, visit qcct.org.