Since the summer of 2000, when it attracted an estimated 2,000 visitors, MidCoast Fine Arts' annual ArtStroll street festival has been the go-to event for both area artisans and connoisseurs of the arts, a union of not-for-profit arts and cultural organizations designed to showcase the quality and diversity within the Quad Cities' art community.

Yet this year's festival, taking place in Davenport on Saturday, August 6, from 5 to 9 p.m., has special significance, as it occurs on the same night as the public unveiling of the new Figge Art Museum, and arrives on the heels of the July 22 grand opening of the Bucktown Center for the Arts - both venues, like the ArtStroll festival itself, located downtown on Second Street.

Within two weeks, one Davenport thoroughfare has emerged as a local mecca for Quad Cities artists, and the media attention generated by the Figge and Bucktown openings has, according to ArtStroll coordinator Sue Brandt, certainly been beneficial for 2005's festival.

"The fact that it [ArtStroll] is attached to the Figge opening and Bucktown has been great," says Brandt. "There's definitely a lot of interest this year," and the event is expected to see some 6,000 attendees over the course of four hours.

The openings of the Figge Museum and the Bucktown Center for the Arts, in fact, have led to a major change for this year's festival; for the first time, ArtStroll patrons will be treated to art both outside, on Second Street, and inside, within the new Figge and Bucktown venues. "ArtStroll has typically been on a Friday," Brandt says, "but this year, we wanted to coincide with the Figge opening, so we moved it to Saturday." The idea, Brandt continues, is to have a continuous wave of people visiting each locale, "so people can visit the Figge and also be there for ArtStroll" just as they can see the art on display both at Bucktown and outside Bucktown. ArtStroll, says Brandt, is now "a culmination of everything going on downtown."

As ever, the ArtStroll street festival will showcase works by visual artists working in all different media - "paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography... everything," Brandt says - but this year's slate of performing artists is, according to Brandt, the most exciting aspect of this year's festival.

"We're going to have so many different types of music," said Brandt. "We have jazz, we have blues, we have rock ... just about everything."

She isn't kidding. ArtStroll's musical performances this year (with, at press time, the possibility of more musical acts yet to be determined) include : jazz from area groups Catfish Jazz, Tony & Boris, and the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Society, all at the Figge Museum; the Manny Lopez Trio playing jazz in the River Music Experience courtyard; the classical strains of the Quad City Symphony in Mojo's; the John Resch Band performing blues at River Music Experience; and the self-described "acid jazz rock and roll" from local band INTENSITY! in front of the Figge. (For a map of ArtStroll events, see page 28 of this week's Reader.)

But the music in the air won't merely come from area bands; the cast of the musical Ragtime, being presented in a fund-raising performance at the Galvin Fine Arts Center over the August 5-7 weekend, will perform numbers from their show in front of the Bucktown Center for the Arts. "They're performing at 5," Brandt says, "and then they do a show [at Galvin] later that night."

The visual arts certainly won't go unrepresented - more than 50 visual artists will be diplaying, and hopefully selling, their works - and Brandt is especially pleased with the participation of younger area artists this year, as festival organizers have made it easier than ever for emerging artists to have their work seen. "This year, we're providing a table and chair to all the artists," says Brandt, "so they didn't have to provide that themselves, and there's no fee" to show their work. "We found that a lot of artists didn't want to take the chance on paying a fee if they weren't going to get anything sold. They don't have to worry about that this time."

Overall, Brandt says, "it was actually very easy to attract people [artists]" to the 2005 ArtStroll. "With the opening of the Figge and Bucktown nearby, there's a lot of awareness."

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