Incubating the Arts
Compiled by Carol Bodensteiner and Mary Gottschalk
Incubators can be a great tool for both individual business start-ups and broader community development. A dual-purpose incubator is exactly what the Bucktown Center for the Arts in downtown Davenport intends to be — a supportive environment for promising artists, which at the same time draws people into the city.
The story of the Bucktown Center began when a group of local artists set out to counter the 1980s decline of many downtowns. In 1991 the group established MidCoast Fine Arts as a nonprofit dedicated to bringing the visual arts back to the Quad Cities, where there was little reason for community residents, during the day or after dark, to explore city centers.
One of MidCoast’s early strategies was to place a variety of visual arts displays in empty retail store windows in Davenport. “The visual arts have a shelf life that the performing arts cannot offer,” says Dean Schroeder, recently retired executive director of MidCoast. To keep people coming to and staying in the city center, MidCoast made sure the windows were lit at night to catch the eye of people leaving theater and music performances and to make them feel safe when they chose to wander.
Over the next decade that strategy, linked with other redevelopment initiatives, led to dramatic growth in commercial and retail businesses in downtown Davenport. But that success left MidCoast without venues to showcase the visual arts. The Bucktown Center fills that void. Its 17 shops offer a broad array of visual arts, including photography, printmaking, fabric design, mixed media, and a writing center, as well as a gallery with rotating exhibits of individual artists.
“It’s a wonderful facility,” says Desiree Border, owner of 3 Gypsies Designs and one of three tenants in the Center since it opened in 2005. According to Border, a jewelry designer, having so many different types of art in one location generates more business for everyone. “It also means that we can learn from and help each other.”
“We’re pleased with the Center’s success,” says Schroeder. “It brings in a lot of foot traffic and has helped to create a sense of a cosmopolitan community.”
For information on hours, location, and artists at the Bucktown Center, see www.bucktownarts.com. For information on MidCoast Fine Arts, including a schedule of sponsored events, visit www.midcoast.org. — M.G.
Photo courtesy Quinn Kirkpatrick/Small Wonders Photography.