Jim Konrad already was on the short list for consideration for this year's Harley Award, given by MidCoast Arts' Riverssance Festival of Fine Arts.
But Konrad's unexpected death in May at the age of 67 made the decision appropriate, said Bruce Carter, a longtime artist and arts advocate as well as chairman of the award committee.
The award, which will be presented at noon today during the 24th annual festival, has been given to artists, teachers, museum officials, "people who've affected the arts and the artists in the Quad-Cities in their lifetime," he said, "all these people who've fostered, who've nurtured the arts during their time."
That description fit Konrad to a T, Carter, his longtime friend, said.
Konrad had a varied career as a Vietnam War medic who went to Drake University in Des Moines to receive his master's degree in printmaking, then came to the Quad-Cities as an artist-in-residence at the former Davenport Museum of Art and worked next as a paint formulator and color specialist for the D.C. Franche Paint Manufacturing Co. in Davenport. After teaching for four years at the former Marycrest College, he joined the Augustana College faculty in 1989.
Carter said Konrad used his experience at the paint plant in both his teaching and his art.
"Jim had this encyclopedic knowledge of how to paint, how to use color, how to get the complement, how to paint shadows," Carter said. "I never knew how to make shadows."
Most of Konrad's students were future art teachers themselves, he said.
"Jim was a scientist-artist. He knew mixing paints, he knew how to make pastels, chalk pastels, paper," Carter added. "That's the side of him that was appreciated by art teachers."
Sherry Maurer, the director of Augustana's art museum, said Konrad encouraged creativity.
"Jim empowered area artists with the knowledge and confidence to experiment with creating the materials they use rather than always purchasing them from a store," Maurer said in a news release from Augustana. "From his free samples of materials he had made to the yearly arrival of his handmade Christmas cards, from his quietly anguished still-life paintings to his sublime landscapes, he reminded us to rely on, cherish and appreciate our own creativity."
Besides the posthumous honor at noon, today is also the final day of a memorial display of Konrad's work at the Augustana museum, from noon to 4 p.m., inside Centennial Hall, Rock Island.
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The noon presentation is scheduled to include Konrad's wife, Cathy, and two grown sons, one a physician, the other a musician.
Carter also recalls Konrad as a perfectionist.
"Jim would take weeks to set up a still life," he said. "He would prop up an apple with pennies or a little toy, marvelous things."
Konrad and fellow artist Bill Hannan were frequent guests on "Art Talks," Carter's regular radio show on WVIK-FM, the Augustana public radio station.
Several artists joined Carter for a memorial show during which he said the impact of his friend's death finally hit him.
"I got enormously sad, I got this wave of sadness toward the end," he added. "I could barely give the ‘outro.' I was very moved."