Artists, art supporters earn city of Quincy Arts Awards

Top: Connie and Rich Niemann, Jim Mentesti. Bottom: Ann Titus, Vicki Demsey, Kellie Kurre, Kelly Langston.
Posted: Jan. 8, 2013 3:18 pm Updated: Jan. 22, 2013 5:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Ann Titus' passion for working with fabrics started 50 years ago when she was sitting on her grandmothers' knees.

Titus first started with embroidery and knitting when she visited her grandparents, and those talents eventually developed into an entire career revolving around the fiber arts.

Titus was recognized Tuesday during a Rotary Club luncheon at the Holiday Inn when the 2012 City of Quincy Arts Awards were handed out. The awards, presented by Mayor John Spring, were sponsored by WGEM-TV/AM-FM/CGEM, The Quincy Herald-Whig, the Oakley-Lindsay Foundation and the Quincy Society of Fine Arts.

Titus was given the award for individual artist.

"I was amazed and very much surprised," she said. "I looked at previous recipients, and they are people I look up to in this area as to what they've done in the arts scene."

Titus made quilts for the children of her friends when she finished college, and she started making wall quilts in the 1980s. Twenty years later, she began to experiment with a wide variety of surface design techniques to alter textiles while still honoring her quilt-making roots.

"I make artwork that is generally made out of fabric that I paint or dye or burn, or I can transfer photographs to," she said. "There are all kinds of techniques for getting design into fabric, then layering them and quilting through them. My work is abstract. It's more of my imagination, creating shapes and colors. You can get a wonderful texture and a whole new dimension."

Titus is a member of the Great River Artisans and the Hannibal Alliance Art Gallery. Her work has been exhibited throughout the region, and she has won numerous awards, including the 2008 City of Quincy Purchase Award at the Midsummer Arts Faire. Born in Hamilton, Titus lived briefly in Indiana before returning to live in Quincy.

Individual City of Quincy Arts Awards were presented to:

º Vicki Dempsey, volunteer leadership.

º Jim Mentesti, lifetime achievement.

º Connie and Rich Niemann, lifetime achievement.

Dempsey has been the president of Quincy Preserves since 2009 and enjoys giving tours of her home for the Quincy Convention and Visitors Bureau's program of private home tours. She also has participated in 12 productions at the Quincy Community Theatre and is a past president of the QCT board. She supports the Quincy Art Center, the Quincy Symphony, the Quincy Civic Music Association, the Quincy Park Band and the Muddy River Opera. She has practiced law with her husband, Terrell, in Quincy and Hannibal for 25 years.

Mentesti has helped grow the arts in Quincy and Adams County for more than 30 years. As president of the Great River Economic Development Foundationn, he was instrumental in the founding of the Midsummer Arts Faire and was the event's honorary chairman in 2012. His first contribution to the arts scene was when he served as producer of the Madrigal dinner for five years while at Quincy College. He is a past treasurer of the Quincy Society of Fine Arts and has supported the Quincy Art Center, the Quincy Community Theatre and the Community Foundation of the Quincy Area Arts Fund.

The Niemanns and the Niemann Food Foundation recently gave $1 million to Quincy University, the largest single gift from a living donor, to establish the Connie Niemann Center for Music. The Niemanns met while playing in the high school band, and Rich Niemann said the driving force behind the gift is his wife's love of music.

The business leadership award went to Peoples Prosperity Bank. Kellie Kurre is the community bank president.

The bank, which cut the ribbon at its site near Seventh and Maine in June 2012, has been an active arts supporter. The bank's employees serve on the boards of arts organizations such as the Quincy Society of Fine Arts. The bank has supported Blues in the District, and it showcased the Villa Kathrine with a hot-air balloon event. It also has sponsored a poker run, a trick-or-treat program, Smoke on the River and a long list of nonprofit arts events. Its support extends to such organizations as the Salvation Army, Quest, Berrian School, the Quincy Humane Society and the West Central Illinois Center for Independent Living.

The arts organization award went to the Midsummer Arts Faire. Kelly Langston is the president of the organization's board of directors.

Late local artist Pat Surface imagined a communitywide weekend full of arts activities when she began the task of putting together the first Midsummer Arts Faire in 2004. The event, which showcases world-class local, regional and national talent, will celebrate its 10th anniversary during the fourth weekend of June. The three-day festival is a juried art exhibition that brings many tourists to Quincy. The event also has local food selections, live musical and theatrical performances, hands-on arts activities, and a young collectors gallery benefiting area arts education programs.

A downtown mural will be dedicated to Surface to celebrate the anniversary, and the Big Dam Film Festival will join the weekend's slate of activities.

Each arts award winner received original prints created by students in Libby Tournear's art classes at the Quincy Art Center. Students were Kate Ropchak, Rylee Hendricks, Ellie Craig, Maya Shaw, Emma Eyler and Emma LaFollette.

The awards date to 1981.