For 7th year, Davenport German American center becomes Iowa’s largest Advent calendar

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Four windows at Davenport’s German American Heritage Center were lit by Dec. 8 for Advent (photo by Jonathan Turner).

During the holy season of Advent, the German American Heritage Center and Museum once again is being turned into Iowa’s largest Advent calendar.

For the seventh straight year, the south-facing windows on the four-story center at 2nd and Gaines streets, Davenport, are being decked out with student-created designs. A half a window is added each day (since Dec. 1), and 12 windows (representing 24 days) will be decorated altogether, and they’re lit at night.

“I love how pretty it looks,” GAHC executive director Kelly Lao said Thursday, noting the art is all created by 7th-grade students at Davenport’s Creative Arts Academy, based at Sudlow Intermediate School.

“They always like to do different themes, and the students get to learn about German heritage topics,” she said. This year’s theme was German inventors and social activists – including honoring Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468), inventor of the printing press, and Margarethe Meyer Schurz (1832-1876), who used the training she gained in Germany to create the first kindergarten in the United States.

Windows on the first and fourth floors decked out at German American Heritage Center, 712 W. 2nd St., Davenport (photo by Jonathan Turner).

The center began the holiday project in 2015, when then-director Janet Brown-Lowe proposed the idea based on a calendar in windows of the city hall in Gengenbach, Germany. “They’re also lit at night; it’s beautiful,” Lao said. “It looks like a quaint German village.”

The CAA was new then, looking for student projects, and each year the 7th-grade media arts and graphic design students work on it. Teachers Colleen McCarty-Tomlinson and Heidi Hernandez lead the art projects and theater and music instructors Alex McCarthy and Benjamin Yancey (respectively) also work with CAA students on German-themed projects, Lao said.

Close-up views of the first 8 Advent designs by 7th-grade students from the Creative Arts Academy of the Quad Cities (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Students have created paintings that are displayed on the center’s fourth floor, and others have made short videos on famous German figures for GAHC’s new TikTok account, Lao said. The Advent project is sponsored by the Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the students visited Edwards Creative in Milan on a field trip to learn about design careers.

Local mural artist Atlanta Dawn in late November also painted large holiday figures on the first-floor windows of the GAHC.

On Thursday, the center also had a formal ribbon-cutting for its new interactive kiosks in the permanent “The German American Immigrant Experience” exhibit on the third floor.

The German American Heritage Center and Museum has new interactive kiosks that reflect experiences of real immigrants to Davenport.

There are two special events on Sunday, Dec. 12 at GAHC. First, all members get 20% off on all gift shop purchases that day. You can pick up some authentic German-made ornaments, wares, toys, treats, and much more. The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m.

And at 2 p.m. Sunday, there will be a free talk (donations greatly appreciated) on the fourth floor, from Mackenzie Roush, St. Ambrose University history and art history student, on the lives of Jews during the time period (from 1918-1933) immediately prior to the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.

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