Two local arts groups are joining forces on an ambitious public-art project in the remodeled Quad City International Airport. The key remaining issue is raising enough money to turn the vision into reality.
The Quad City International Airport's eight-member board voted unanimously July 18 to team up with Quad City Arts and MidCoast Fine Arts to populate the renovated airport with both permanent and rotating artwork and exhibits. "The board wanted to pursue something that would enhance the building," said Bruce Carter, director of aviation for the Metropolitan Airport Authority.

Visitors to the Quad Cities "are going to see us as a vital community," said Judi Holdorf, executive director of Quad City Arts.

But the project is meant to be as much economic-development tool as support for the arts. The airport is the first thing many visitors - including business executives, job applicants, and tourists - see, and organizers think artwork will make a good impression that can be translated into money. Arts and cultural opportunities have become more important to businesses in recent years, said Dean Schroeder, executive director of MidCoast.

But the participants will still need to raise money, and the arts groups aren't even sure how much the whole thing is going to cost. "We're putting those estimates together now," Holdorf said. Costs include four commissions for permanent artwork and supplies for the project.

Schroeder didn't seem worried about the financial situation. Brian Van De Walle, a Wisconsin-based consultant to the airport, has emphasized the economic-development angle and thinks that businesses will be eager to give. He "believes this will not necessarily be considered [only] an arts project," Schroeder said.

The two arts organizations will divide responsibilities based on their strengths. MidCoast will coordinate the rotating exhibit of local and regional artists and will work with Quad City Arts on a rotating exhibit of art on loan from corporations. Quad City Arts will commission the four permanent projects, and the airport's new terminal will also house permanent corporate art. This is the first formal partnership between MidCoast and Quad City Arts.
"This is a pretty big undertaking for us," Holdorf said.

Already, the John Deere Foundation has agreed to contribute $100,000 to the project, which will pay for a terrazzo floor, a bronze deer statue, and an enclosed, walk-through art gallery. Alcoa has contributed more than $90,000 toward stone and steel monuments lining the airport's entrance, which are considered of the project.

The art-at-the-airport program was conceived last year, before the airport undertook a $17-million construction project to expand its concourse and build a new terminal.

The first phase of airport construction is scheduled to be completed by mid-October, and the second half should be finished in April 2001. Carter said he expects the terrazzo floor to be done in September and an art gallery finished in November.

One key decision the airport made was to restrict all advertising to an expanded baggage-claim area. That will "leave the rest of it as an open canvas," Schroeder said.

"We're pretty impressed that the commissioners would consider this kind of program," Holdorf said. The airport could have used the space for advertising, for example, and make money with the space.

But Carter said the airport won't lose much if any revenue by dedicating the space to art instead of commerce. "The board wanted to shy away from some of those things," he said.

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