1109 East Rusholme Street in Davenport. Photo by Bruce Walters.

Against the unknown, Halloween is our brave face. It confronts the lengthening nights and approaching cold of winter. It laughs loudly in the face of death.

Today, Halloween is often perceived simply as a kid-friendly celebration for costume parties and collecting candy. Though the holiday suits our contemporary world, many of its traditions are surprisingly old. Trick-or-treating, for example, became widespread in America in the 1940s. However, the custom of dressing in costumes and begging door-to-door dates back to the Middle Ages. Wearing costumes to ward off harmful spirits at this time of year is even more ancient. This practice evolved over the centuries, yet the core intent to transform one's identity still captivates us.

Jack Wilhoit

When MidCoast Fine Arts opened the Bucktown Center for the Arts nine years ago, the marketing played up its downtown-Davenport neighborhood's once-upon-a-time reputation as the "wickedest city in America."

Jack Wilhoit of Worldly Views said some artists who leased studios back then followed that lead. "It seemed like there was a lot of partying by emerging artists, but that didn't sell fine art," he said.

From the photography and works in Worldly Views, it's obvious that Wilhoit's muses are the doors and bicycles he's encountered during his extensive travels - hence, his nickname as "The Door Guy." Entering the space, you see an unusual table with a gleaming-refinished-door top that sits on a metal support of repurposed bicycle parts - arranged to look as if the framework is ready to move. The metal table legs on one end bend at an angle, as if to simulate an animal's forward sprint. It successfully suggests futuristic robotic speed blended with the craftsmanship of the sturdy door and meticulously machined parts.

Wilhoit's studio is the sole remaining original tenant at Bucktown. While the building still provides studio-shop suites for artists, there have been many changes. There's a greater number of artists teaching classes in their studios; Bucktown artists talk about how their peers inspire and challenge them; and the tenants now include an animation studio and a store selling an unusual line of paints. When I was hired as Bucktown's building coordinator in June, I was surprised by both the variety and maturity of the artists and artisans.

Wilhoit also noted that MidCoast reorganized its second-floor gallery to provide artists with more-affordable gallery spaces, starting at $30 a month. "Initially that space was treated as four partitioned studios and a changing-exhibition showroom," he said. "About five years ago, the changing-exhibition gallery was kept, but the studios were divided into smaller areas for more artists to have a sales space." Hallway display cases can also be rented.

That emphasis on sales, said Dee Schricker of Boho Chic Gallery, is critical to artists: "If it wasn't important to sell the work, I could create my art at home. My clientele base was built from walk-ins to Bucktown."

More change is almost certainly coming to the building with a pending sale, but a downsized MidCoast presence in the building will allow Bucktown to continue as an outlet for artists - and it should still thrive.

'Night Caravan,' by Kristin Quinn

One is a potter, one a painter. Megan and Kristin Quinn are sisters living and teaching on opposite Mississippi River shores of the Quad Cities. Their paths to art were different, and their chosen media put them at polar ends of a visual-arts axis. Kristin said that, in jest, a brother-in-law calls her "Artsy" and Megan "Craftsy."

It doesn't take long in their presence to grasp their deep mutual admiration and friendship. However, Kristin was nine years old when Megan left for college, and the age difference precluded any close relationship in childhood.

As the Quinn sisters look back at their family of five children, they see just a few shared inspirations from their time growing up in Bowie, Maryland. Their parents were educators. He was a physicist and professor at the University of Maryland who specialized in optics and provided access to visually stimulating apparatuses: prisms, lenses, even early holograms. "We played laser tag with real lasers," said Megan with a laugh.

Along with plentiful lessons on the natural world, they were encouraged to ask questions. Kristin explained: "On long car trips, we passed the time with questions to stump Dad: Why was the sky orange, what caused hail, and how were tunnels built under the bay? ... We refer to these questions now as 'Tunnel Talk' questions."

The inquisitiveness fostered in their youth is readily apparent in their art, and they've built similar teaching careers: Megan is a ceramics professor at Augustana College, while Kristin - the painter - is a professor and chairs the art department at St. Ambrose University. They will be jointly honored with the Harley Award at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 20, as part of MidCoast Fine Arts' Riverssance Festival of the Arts at Lindsay Park in Davenport.

The Rock Island Clock Tower Building. Photo by Bruce Walters.

The impressive clocks atop the Rock Island Clock Tower building (at the western point of Arsenal Island) and the Wells Fargo building (at 201 West Third Street in Davenport) are highly visible landmarks - day or night. From a distance, the clocks appear to be about the size of a full moon - and, like the moon, are viewed against the sky.

The message conveyed by the height, location, and longevity of these towers is that the institutions associated with them are of great importance to our community. Gazing upward to read the time forces us to look up to these institutions.

Hot Glass art, photo by Meghan McLaughlinWhen you first walk in the doors of downtown Davenport's recently opened Hot Glass art studio, there are a few things you might notice right off the bat.

Initially, your eye is drawn to the vibrant splashes of color on the shelving units to the left: multi-hued glass bowls, vases, and paperweights, all located beneath a striking, meticulously assembled, golden glass chandelier that wouldn't look out of place in the ballroom of Beauty & the Beast.

To your right, you see much of the studio's equipment: a workbench and containers of colored glass and a pair of sizable furnaces, one of whose indicators reveals its interior temperature to be just over 2,300 degrees.

On the opposite side of the studio, through the windows facing River Drive, you're treated to a view of Modern Woodmen Park so picture-perfect that the ballpark should consider using it on souvenir postcards. (Hot Glass is located at 104 Western Avenue, in the rear of the Davenport Printing Company facility.)

But if you turn around and face the direction you came in, you'll find what is the most beautiful sight in the entire studio, at least for Hot Glass Executive Director Joel Ryser and his co-founder son Logan: a large sign on the wall listing the names of local organizations, businesses, and individuals who provided the money, equipment, and experience necessary to make their dream studio a reality.

It is as if a Jimi Hendrix concert outfit collided and merged with great-grandma's doily and potholder collection in the 2009 Soundsuit by Nick Cave, part of the exhibition Innovators & Legends: Generations in Textiles & Fiber that runs through September 7 at the Figge Art Museum.

Photo by Bruce Walters

Cadence of Diversity is a joyful mural - rich with expressions of many cultures that are balanced with an underlying theme of connectedness.

The 100-foot-long mural is painted on a concrete wall just south of Seventh Avenue on 38th Street in Rock Island. Working with more than 50 Augustana students, Peter Xiao - a professor of art at the college - led the mural's development and execution throughout much of 2009, completing the work in the spring of 2010.

Recently at the Quad City International Airport art gallery, two travelers were bluntly musing about twisting sculptures cantilevered off the display wall. "Normally, this would be considered a pile of crap," one said.

We received 116 entries in our 2014 Photo Contest in four categories: Fun in the Sun, In the Garden, Summer Nights, and Heat Wave. We're happy to present this selection of winners.

The Blues Brothers. Photo by Bruce Walters.

On May 2, the life-sized sculptures of the Blues Brothers were back on public display in the Rock Island District after months of storage and repairs. The sculptures are seated in chairs near the corner of Second Avenue and 18th Street.

On the same day, Watching the Ferry - a sculpture of two boys seated on a park bench - was unveiled at its new site in Davenport's Lindsay Park near the riverfront. This sculpture had been out of public view for five years, since its removal from near the Iowa American Water treatment plant when construction began on a floodwall.

Although the timing was a coincidence, the two sculptures share some similarities. Both depict two young men seated side-by-side and convey a sense of camaraderie. Both look to a past associated with the Quad Cities. Both are based on works in other media: television and film with the Blues Brothers and a lithograph with Watching the Ferry.

A comparison between the two pieces is intriguing because of this difference in their sources - as well as in their attitudes, materials, and locations.

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