Cultural-Tourism Initiatives Start to Take Shape Print
News/Features - Arts News
Tuesday, 22 March 2005 18:00
When it was unveiled last September, the Quad Cities Arts, Heritage, & Cultural Tourism Plan was a mass of good ideas and tough questions. While many issues remain, a pair of meetings held Monday represented tentative progress in one major area: where the money might come from.

The concept was that a new entity could become the marketing arm of dozens of cultural organizations in the Quad Cities, doing regional advertising – including in major cities such as Chicago – promoting the abundance of artistic and cultural offerings in the Quad Cities. (See “Can Arts and Culture Put Heads in Beds?” River Cities’ Reader Issue 496, September 29, 2004.)

The study, prepared for the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau (QCCVB), proposed a two-year initial budget of $300,000, which would include staffing of one and a half employees with roughly half the money devoted to marketing.

But the study left open the issues of how the effort would be organized and funded. And the QCCVB was clear that it would not take over the initiative at the expense of existing marketing efforts. Because the study offered no timelines and no clear action steps, there was a danger that nothing would ever come of it.

Now the University of Illinois Extension and Iowa State University Extension have offered the possibility of becoming the organizational home of the initiative. Crucially, this structure would generate matching funds from the State of Illinois. In other words, instead of having to raise $300,000, the organization could raise $150,000 and have it matched to meet the study’s initial funding target.

Monday’s meetings were led by Joy Thompson of the Rock Island County office of University of Illinois Extension and Becky Bray of the Scott County office of Iowa State University Extension. The sessions brought together nearly 50 leaders of various cultural organizations.

Thompson noted that having the joint-marketing effort outside of the QCCVB would make it more attractive to foundations in terms of funding.

But while Thompson and Bray have helped mitigate one of the most daunting challenges to creating a central cultural-marketing organization, six community institutions are already moving forward with their own joint-marketing effort.

The Family Museum of Arts & Science, the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre, the Figge Art Museum, the River Music Experience, the Niabi Zoo, and the Quad City Botanical Center are applying for a $50,000 grant from the Riverboat Development Authority that would pay for marketing of those six organizations. The botanical center is the applying entity.

Jeff Reiter, the Family Museum’s business development manager, said his organization wanted to move forward with some of the study’s recommendations. “We’re ready to proceed,” he said. He added that he thinks their effort would be complementary rather than competitive with what Thompson and Bray are trying to accomplish. “Hopefully, we’re looked at as an ally,” he said. He added that perhaps this marketing effort can be a stepping stone to a more-inclusive arrangement.

Reiter noted that the joint marketing would be contingent on receiving the Riverboat Development Authority grant.

“They certainly weren’t aware of our efforts,” Thompson said Tuesday of the six groups making the grant application, “and we certainly weren’t aware of their efforts. … We need to have a conversation with those folks.” She added that she supports the grant application but acknowledged that it’s important for all the cultural organizations to be on the same page. “It’s going to take more than two conversations,” she said.

Todd McGreevy contributed to this report.