The Beréskin Gallery & Art Academy at 2967 State St. is like a serene oasis of color, light and beauty amid the industrial landscape in Bettendorf that surrounds it.

The feast for the eyes and senses includes everything from large, dramatic paintings to sculpture, jewelry, colorful fiber hangings, stunning photography and intricate wood vases.

Directing the operation is Pat Beréskin, a Bettendorf native with decades of experience creating and teaching art. She exudes passion and enthusiasm -- for art, for her role in assisting would-be artists, and for promoting professional artists from the region.

One example is a show hosted by the gallery through March 9 by Bettendorf native Troy Swangstu. The exhibit is titled “Made in Iowa.”

Beréskin and her husband Greg, a professor of economics at St. Ambrose University, saw Swangstu’s work in Kansas City, where the artist “has made quite a name for himself,” she said.

Many of the pieces reflect animal and agricultural themes in an “abstract impressionist” style, Beréskin said. “There’s a vitality in his work; there’s a tension that connects the art piece to the person.”

It’s been five months since the Beréskin Gallery & Art Academy opened in the building that housed Foster Family Music Center for many years. The gallery was formerly located in the Bucktown Center for the Arts in downtown Davenport.

The new location offers many advantages, including 82 available parking spaces to accommodate students for classes as well as the many visitors who attend opening receptions for new art shows. The lower level provides a perfect venue for art classes, with large windows letting in natural light as well as a view of the Mississippi River.

During a recent class on drawing with charcoal dust, Beréskin walked from student to student, making suggestions and giving praise. It’s her hands-on approach that has endeared many students to “Mrs. B.”

Her degree in education from the University of Northern Iowa combined with more than 40 years of work as an artist is deeply reflected in the offerings at the academy.

“The educational component is the pillar that supports the gallery and its artists,” she says.

Almost 200 students are taking a variety of classes now, and registration for the popular summer camps begins March 7. Those interested are encouraged to go online at www.bereskinartgallery.com and download registration information.

Beréskin said the gallery also offers consulting services for home and office designers and will do commission work. She urges buyers to consider purchasing local art.

“People can go to a big box store and they can buy a $40 print and then they spend $350 to have it framed when they could walk into my store, meet the artist, and the frame is even crafted by a local woodworker,” she says.

At the foundation of her work is a strong commitment to locally owned businesses in the downtown Bettendorf area and a vision for what the future holds.

“What we’re really trying to do as business owners is work together, advertise together and let the public know what is down here,” she said.

While she notes that her work has taken her all over the world, “when I cross that bridge, I’m home, and the Mississippi welcomes me every time I come across.”

“Our community, we’re just representing the best of what the Quad-Cities has to offer,” she said. “And that’s what we look for in the artists that show here and that teach here.

“We want to have our students, whether they’re 6 or 96, extend their own personal growth.”

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