Balancing himself on a lift 20-some feet in the air, Moline High School fine arts instructor Joel Ryser showed a lot of heart while hanging one of 225 glass ornaments in the lobby of the Genesis Heart Institute in Davenport.  

The occasion, in addition to Valentine's Day, is that the heart institute is celebrating its 15th anniversary from 1-3 p.m. today.

Genesis commissioned the "heart art" installation from Ryser, who operates Hot Glass, a not-for-profit business that teaches high school students the craft of glass-making.

"We wanted to look for a new and innovative way to celebrate Valentine's Day in a way that speaks to the health issue, as well as to the traditional understanding that surrounds Valentine's Day," said Ken Croken, the vice president of corporate communications at Genesis. 

Forming the molds for the heart art was essentially a matter of trial-and-error, Ryser said. Each finished piece began with the development of a mold, and then came the process of adding the red color. Ryser ended up carving the molds using his own tools.

Ryser, who was a football coach at Moline for 25 years, established Hot Glass in downtown Davenport last summer. Supported by grants and with funds from donors, it operates as an outlet for area youth, especially those who have an interest in art.

The Genesis project was challenging, Ryser said. The molds took at least 15 hours to make, and it turned out that two or three people were required to work on each piece, coloring the glass material red and then pouring it in the molds.

Hot Glass staff and workers spent all of January and the first part of February on the project, he added.

The idea for the art project originated with Croken. "I heard Joel's story and saw the work he does with the young people, so this really came together," he said.

Croken said Ryser is creating a new avenue for young people, especially those who may not have an outlet for their artistic interests.

For his part, Ryser enjoys working at Hot Glass, which he does when he is not teaching at Moline High.

"It's fun to work with the other artists at the shop and figure out the best way to do things," he said.

The 15th anniversary of the Genesis Heart Institute will be celebrated at the building, 1236 E. Rusholme St., which faces south and features a bank of huge windows.

Cardiologists, including Dr. Jon Robken, Dr. Eric Dippel and heart surgeon Dale Geiss, will host cardiovascular health presentations during the event.

That will include information on minimally invasive aortic valve replacement surgery, which was introduced in 2014. Croken described the surgery as innovative, pointing out that it can be done on older patients.

Nutritionists will be present to discuss food, diet and heart health. In addition, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, will be on hand at 1 p.m. to congratulate the heart institute for its top-50 national ranking.

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