Alternating Currents festival electrifies Quad Cities arts scene


Collin Schopp

This past weekend, Downtown Davenport was the hub for an alive and thriving cultural arts scene in the Quad Cities. The second annual Alternating Currents festival occupied a majority of the downtown area, as well as local venues like the Adler Theater and River Music Experience Redstone Room, from Thursday, Aug. 23 to Sunday, Aug. 26.
The event was brimming with all forms of art, including music, film, comedy, crafts, painting and more showcased throughout the spaces. These events included a large Saturday night concert by indie rock band Dr. Dog, a chalk art competition and a handmade and vintage arts festival near the Davenport Rivercenter called “OMG Becky Fest.”
At OMG Becky Fest, all forms of crafts were represented with everything from portraits by kindergarten age artists, to tarot card readings, to local woodcutting, to original screen-printed art from the area.
Mary Talbert, from Crafted QC, a working art studio and retail shop in Downtown Davenport, is the driving force behind this specific part of the event.
“I sat over there [across from the River Center] for two years and thought ‘I want to put a show there,’” Talbert said.
For the past three years, that’s exactly what she’s done. Booths were overflowing with handmade, vintage, comfortable and familiar goods, and it’s not just from the immediate area. This year saw vendors coming from Dubuque and Iowa City, and the number of artists at the show is always increasing as the organizers look at even wider spaces for the event to possibly move.
A dedicated organizer is a must for a festival that covers as many facets of art as Alternating Currents. Kyle Carter, the Executive Director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, was one of the many people who helped make the festival possible from its inception last year to the growth it has seen now.
“It’s a headache when you’re coordinating with a dozen different partners.” Carter said, “but, it’s also the reason that it works.”
Inspired by the model that conventions like South By Southwest use in other cities, Carter used connections he had made through his involvement in the Davenport music scene to reach out to artists of different mediums in the area and bring them together in one event. “
That’s why we have music, comedy, film, art…we even dabbled with the entrepreneurial speaker role, like you would see out in Austin too, through the annual Chamber meeting this year,” Carter said.
The goal of the festival is to highlight the culture of Davenport and the surrounding area and to give a platform to those that are endlessly working 24/7 to make Davenport a cool and thriving place to live.
Rachel Frances, an Augustana junior and artist, participated in the chalk art contest, filling an entire portion of a Davenport street with a portrait of Frida Kahlo.
“I read about it in a Quad Cities Times article,” Frances said. “Fortunately, they extended the registration time for the chalk art contest and I got in.” Frances was one of several Augustana students involved with the event, with some just visiting, and some volunteering to help as staff.
The festival wrapped up on Sunday evening, with one of the last events being a screening and subsequent Q and A session with the writers of the film A Quiet Place. Over the past three days, Alternating Currents has proven that though downtown Davenport and the surrounding areas are many things, they’re not a “quiet place” themselves. The participation this year is a good sign that innovation and artistry will only continue to grow in the Quad Cities, and Alternating Currents will surely be a place for the emerging artists of the future to show off their work for years to come.
Photo at top: Bill Turner of Sudsy Mosaics waits for customers as he surveys his “bottle cap folk art” at Alternating Currents in Davenport, IA on Saturday, Aug. 25. Photo by Thea Gonzales.