Downtown Davenport's "number one" corner at Second and Main is really coming to life these days. The exterior renovation of the Redstone (formerly Peterson/Von Maur Department Store) building as part of the Vision Iowa project is phenomenal. And just across the courtyard, the former Cornet Room has been transformed inside and out into a classy new bistro, Savitri's. One can't help but notice the new Christmas decorations and lights inside the Redstone windows, and given the long tradition of these windows as part of the holiday fare the new displays have garnered some ink in the local press. And as usual there's another perspective to consider once everyone's finished glowing about the warm fuzzies.

Bill Wundrum, in another one of his halcyon-four-degrees-of-separation pieces, last Thursday reported on the return of holiday displays in the Redstone windows. He writes in the QC Times, "But 16 years ago, when the department store went away to the mall, Christmas stopped at Second and Main. Since then, the windows have been bleak as a coal bin at midnight each Christmas season, but this year - with the entire Redstone building being remodeled - Quad City Arts Festival of Trees took over for Santa."

I'm not sure whether Wundrum was practicing his well honed craft of revisionist journalism or was simply penning with acute ignorance. Regardless, if Mr. Wundrum had bothered to walk by the Redstone building any given day in the last six years, he would have enjoyed the innovative and award winning visual arts program Art Under Glass, orchestrated by MidCoast Fine Arts. With funding from the Riverboat Development Authority, the Downtown Davenport Association and the Downtown Davenport Development Corporation (now consolidated into DavenportOne), MidCoast held the bookmark, so to speak, on the Redstone building since 1996. When no one wanted to have anything to do with the building, MFA rotated, every three months, over 120 juried exhibits of local and regional paintings, sculpture and pottery through the Redstone windows. By keeping the lights on (literally) in the Redstone, MFA helped establish arts as a priority for our downtown, years before the Christmas decorations were brought back into vogue. The only bleak thing evident here is Wundrum's lack of awareness of the talented artists our community has to offer.

But, this isn't the only issue at hand. Wundrum goes on to report that the Becthel Trust and Festival of Trees plan to expand the Christmas displays even further next year. What about the River Music Experience museum? How much more funding does the Festival of Trees really need? Do lavish Christmas displays that are only relevant six weeks out of the year further the mission of the River Music Experience, or Quad City Arts for that matter? Won't those windows be crucial elements to generating revenues for the purported restaurants and retail establishments that are to go there? It would be a sad irony if hundreds of thousands of dollars are invested in mechanized Santas for the Redstone while, when it opens, the RME finds itself facing budget restraints and cannot hire the talent it needs, or develop the programming and marketing it must have to sustain its ongoing operation. While the holiday displays in the windows at the Redstone have drawing power for a great many people who grew up in the Quad Cities, let's hope those running the RME have the wherewithal to balance this tradition with a relevant musical experience.

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