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Art as Big as the Mississippi at the Figge in Davenport
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Art as Big as the Mississippi at the Figge in Davenport

No pun intended but there is a great confluence of exhibitions at the Figge Museum of Art in Davenport. All are up through September 17, though one is up a bit longer. They center on the Mississippi or the human trash that can be found in places like the Mississippi. The art offers perspective and meditation on nature, community, relationships, heroism, generations, and human impact on the environment. It is always a great time to visit the Figge, but if momentum has not swayed you toward Davenport recently, let this art be the motivator.

You will see an exhibition on how beds of endangered mussels were moved elsewhere in the Mississippi to save the animals as a new bridge threatened their home. Take the time to color a virtual mussel and place it in the virtual mussel bed.

At the stunning Wintergarden Landing, you can draw your own portrait of the Mississippi to echo the portraits of people and communities that father and daughter, Aernout and Teska Overbeeke, created twenty years apart. The photographs are on display in a riveting presentation. The photographers, from the Netherlands, will give a free talk at the Figge on September 7.

You'll be able to see a small exhibition of eco art made from recycled materials as you will also be able to help build a model Mississippi bridge made from consumer waste.

Chad Pregracke knows much about harvesting human consumer waste from rivers. He founded Living Lands and Waters to clean up the Mississippi. Finding many message-in-a-bottles during his work, these are now artfully displayed in "Chad Pregracke: Message in a Bottle Collection." Pregracke has made wonderful box cases to house the bottles in as well. Head upstairs to see how  Brooklyn artist Jean Chin took thousands of discarded plastic pop bottles and made an Iowa corn maize.

If it’s a nice day, I invite you to walk to the Isabel Bloom headquarters and retail space.  It’s only a 1.4-mile roundtrip jaunt. You’ll stroll through Bucktown, where it is worth your while to stop at Crafted to buy a nastily humorous greeting card or a pair of socks. A couple storefronts farther, you’ll encounter the Bucktown Center for the Arts where it is definitely worth your time to head up to the second-floor galleries of the Midcoast Fine Arts. You’ll see a “Summer of Love” exhibit by artist Alan Campbell that will knock your newly-bought socks off.

If you plan to visit the Isabel Bloom store, you may want to call a few days ahead to see if you can arrange a tour for your party. There are a couple scheduled tours throughout the week, but staff may be happy to work one out for your party. If "new American comfort" food is your thing, on the way back, Woodfire (which you will have passed on your way through Bucktown) may be just for you. I'm partial to their smoked brisket tacos. If you drive to Isabel Bloom, then you might want to drive a mile farther and get yourself baked at Baked Beer and Bread Company. In fact, you actually may want to start your day there. Try what they call a "cereal killer" -- Bread Pudding French Toast or Cheesecake Pancake Tacos. You'll definitely be in the mood to stroll through some neighborhoods, walking off breakfast, as you encounter some wonderful art.

This art excursion through downtown Davenport will robustly fill a satisfying afternoon, and you really need not plan for anything else. But hurry, you only have a few more weeks to see this great art about the Mississippi at a great museum that practically sits on the great river itself.


Photo credit: Patrick Muller, "Aernout Overbeeke -- Teska Overbeeke: Life Along the Mississippi," Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Scott County, Iowa.

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