Davenport, Iowa (October 26, 2021) —During the week of Oct. 25, the Figge Art Museum will be replacing the windows broken by gunfire earlier this summer. As they do so museum leaders remain focused on the important role the Figge plays in supporting a safe, inclusive, and culturally vibrant community.
“It was deeply troubling to experience the damage we received to the exterior of our building, and we are incredibly grateful that no one was injured,” said Michelle Hargrave, the Figge’s executive director and CEO. “We recognize that our community isn’t always so lucky. At the Figge, our staff and board are keenly aware of the role that arts and the Figge play within the community, specifically how our work of bringing art and people together improves lives, empowers individuals, and makes the Quad Cities a stronger and safer place.”
Hargrave explained that incidents like this are also a reminder of the work the Figge has done and continues to expand to help address the systemic issues, including unequal access to educational and economic opportunities, that prevent all residents of the Quad Cities from thriving. “We are committed to championing art in its many forms as a way of helping to turn the tide on the root causes of the recent violence and safety issues we have been experiencing in our region,” she said.
“The Figge is proud to be part of such a strong and connected community,” Hargrave added. “Visiting here for the first time 2 years ago, I was overwhelmed by the passion and generosity of those I met and the quality of life I saw. Those things are the reason I chose to move here from the East coast, and I believe they are what defines who we are as a community, despite the adversity we sometimes collectively face.”
For over a decade, the Figge has been devoted to helping break the cycle of hardship and inequality and focused on bridging gaps to promote a brighter future through art experiences that that benefit the well-being of everyone in the community. Interactions with art experiences, including through the Figge’s diverse range of accessible exhibitions and programs, teach communication skills and mood control, encourage positive expression, promote empathy, facilitate collaboration, relieve stress and offer productive responses to it—all of which contribute to an engaged, optimistic, and safe community.
A direct expression of this potential, the Figge’s educational programs serve all ages and reach 65,000 community members a year, supporting eight school districts and eight partner colleges and universities along with over 40 other educational and social service partners, such as Humility Homes and Services, Spring Forward Learning, and Safer Foundation’s Youth Empowerment Program. The Big Picture outreach program, for example, brings Figge staff to schools within 60 miles of the museum to lead presentations and discussions that use art to explore subjects across the curriculum, from math and science to language arts and social studies. The program also reaches audiences that are outside the traditional school settings, like the Scott County Juvenile Detention Center, Humility Homes and Services, and Hand-in-Hand.
“We truly believe that art can transform lives,” said Melissa Mohr, the Figge’s director of education. “When we help individuals build creativity and confidence, we help them see all the wonderful things they’re capable of accomplishing. Our hope is those skills, along with all the others we teach through art, help them take steps forward, toward their brightest possible futures.”
In recent years, the Figge has made special efforts to reach students who most need support, including sharing art kits with kids and adults temporarily residing at Humility Homes, bringing Big Picture and collaborative mural projects to the Scott County Juvenile Detention Center, and piloting a program to promote positive educational outcomes for at-risk students in the Rock Island-Milan School District. In its pilot year, through a grant from the Windgate Foundation, Figge educator, Laura Wriedt is working with at-risk students to broaden their exposure to the museum, working artists and the variety of artforms they can personally engage in to inspire their future.
Extensive research has shown that art experiences in school can provide long-term academic and social benefits, particularly for those from low-income backgrounds. According to a 2012 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, for example, economically disadvantaged young adults with significant interactions with the arts in middle school and high school were not only more likely to earn higher grades and attend college than those without similar exposure but also more inclined to engage in civic-minded behavior, such as volunteering, voting, and engagement with local or school politics.
For Rock Island-Milan Assistant Superintendent Kathy Ruggeberg, Ph.D., the school district’s longstanding partnership with the Figge is an asset to its students’ success.
“We are lucky to have not only field trip opportunities but also additional resources through out-of-school learning, in-class art lessons, art-enhanced curriculum development, the Young Artists Exhibition, and now a partnership with the Figge to use art to increase graduation rates for our high school students,” Ruggeberg said. “We are committed to and look forward to these and other opportunities to partner with the Figge to provide our students across the Rock Island-Milan School District with opportunities we otherwise could not provide.”
While the Figge is dedicated to bringing people and art together to experience the power of art all across the Quad Cities, the museum’s landmark glass building is also a gathering place for community members of all ages and interests.
“As we replace these windows and make our building whole again, we know that our work in this community is critical—and that there is more to do,” said Hargrave. “Beyond the immediate actions our community’s leaders are at work on, we must look at the why behind these events and strive to address the systemic issues they are symptomatic of. As we do, the Figge will continue foregrounding the invaluable role art—and we as a community institution—have to play.”
The Figge is pleased to announce an initiative to raise funds in support of art experiences in the Quad Cities. Community members are invited to visit: https://www.mightycause.com/story/Safe-Community to contribute. Thanks to the generous support of Brad Fugate, Financial Representative, Modern Woodmen of America, donations will be DOUBLED up to $2500 through October 31, 2021.