Riverssance is known for fine art, food, wine and a great Mississippi River view.
To the 90-100 juried artists who participate each year, it’s also known as the Quad-City art fair to be at.
That’s not just because of the setting at Lindsay Park in the Village of East Davenport or because artists can bet on a crowd of 4,000 to 6,000 people over two days.
It’s also because of a team of about 60 volunteers, called “art angels” who sometimes wear fake wings and check on artists every 30 minutes and come by with takeout menus for food.
As Ann Hartley, a jewelry-maker who will return for her second Riverssance on Saturday and Sunday, says, it’s nice to be able to count on getting a bathroom break and lunch.
“They really know how to take care of their artists,” Hartley, of Moline, said. “That doesn’t happen at every fair.”
Perhaps that’s one reason why Riverssance, which serves as the MidCoast Fine Arts’ largest annual fundraiser, has survived so long, says Sherry Maurer, executive director of MidCoast, a Rock Island-based nonprofit.
This weekend will mark the 30th annual Riverssance.
“To maintain something that long with that many volunteers shows a special commitment,” she said. “We take a particular pride in the unusual and special things we have to offer for our artists.”
Over the years, Maurer said, that has contributed to Riverssance’s strong reputation as an art fair that draws in top quality artists.
It also draws in a wide variety of artists, who create everything from sculptures to dyed scarves to paintings and prints, who live in the Quad-Cities or 90 miles away, who make art full-time or who carve out time on the weekends.
Read on to meet four of those artists.
On the bucket list
When Hartley moved to the Quad-Cities about 12 years ago, the former full-time goldsmith had shifted to being a stay-at-home mother.
Even though it wasn’t in her job description, Hartley, who has a bachelor's degree in printmaking and a master’s in metalsmithing, couldn’t stop making things.
She started crafting sterling silver jewelry in her basement and displayed her work in an Etsy shop online. She started selling jewelry at small fairs and found out there was a wider network of artists also creating out of their homes or as a side hustle.
As business grew, there was one fair still on her bucket list: Riverssance.
“It was a show you should aspire to,” Hartley said. “These artists had been doing it a long time and there’s more of an emphasis on that capital A art.”
She was always “too chicken” to apply to Riverssance until last year, when her work was accepted. Hartley returns for her second run at Riverssance -- her largest show of the year -- this weekend.
“Without things like this, we’d probably all be still sitting frustrated at our kitchen tables or basements,” she said. “It helps to have a community of artists. It’s so important to acknowledge there are wonderful artists here that might be your neighbor or your kids’ teacher. It really allows you to feel that your hometown has worth.”
Photos from a nature lover
Cindy Skeie, of Des Moines, will bring her artwork, what she calls “funky up-close nature photography,” to Riverssance for the second year in a row this weekend.
Her photography hobby, which is now a full-time gig, started when she found the macro setting on her new digital camera back in 2010.
She takes close-up shots of flowers, rain drops, sap, fungus and bugs, saying, “anywhere in nature is fair game.”
“When I first was doing it, it was sensory overload,” Skeie said. “There’s so much going on. There can be so much life in one square foot.”
She will sell her photos at a total of 13 show this year, but she doesn’t call herself an artist. Skeie, who lives by the philosophy, "Don't muck with nature. It is already perfect," sticks to the label “nature lover.”
“I want to show other people what I’m seeing,” she said. “There’s so much beauty if you know where to look for it.”
An honor to take part
John VandeWalle, of Rock Island, fell in love with metal sculpture while studying at Augustana College about 10 years ago.
“As soon as I got into the class, I knew it was a good fit,” he said. “With this medium, it’s instant gratification. You’re not waiting for glass to cool or clay to dry.”
VandeWalle, who works at Sherwin-Williams Floor Covering in Bettendorf, uses scrap or reclaimed metals “that are otherwise forgotten” to create lawn and garden sculptures, as well as some furniture.
His artwork his available at Skeleton Key Art and Antiques, which his wife, Brandy, owns.
This weekend will be VandeWalle’s fifth year at Riverssance, which he attended each year as a kid.
“I was intimidated when I applied because of the caliber of art is so good,” he said. “It’s really an honor take part in it.”
He also considers the fair a showpiece for the Quad-Cities.
“It’s an exceptional event right in our backyard,” he said. “It shows the talent in our area, not talking about my work, is really fantastic.”
An artsy weekend warrior
Janelle Kerns, a returning Riverssance artist, got an extra surprise this year.
One of her stained glass designs was selected to adorn the official Riverssance T-shirt, which is worn by volunteers and is available for sale to festival-goers.
“It’s quite the honor that they chose me,” Kerns, of Bettendorf, said.
The full-time oncology nurse has created stained glass pieces for 15 years.
“It’s what I do on the weekends to unwind,” she said. “Seeing how it turns out is like Christmas morning to me.”
Kerns only sells her work at Quad-City shows and via custom orders, but she keeps “just busy enough.” And she always makes a point to be at Riverssance.
“I like people’s expressions when they see it,” she said. “It means a lot when they value it enough to pay for it. It’s not about the money, but that’s gratifying.”