Patrick Downing is a sterling musician, passionate about fine arts and experienced in fundraising.

So it’s fitting that the 35-year-old Western Illinois University alum is the new director of development at the Figge Art Museum, after nearly three years in a similar job for Davenport-based Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Downing was one of three development directors at Palmer (focusing on the Midwest), which has campuses in Davenport, San Jose, Calif., and Port Orange, Fla. At the Figge (225 W. 2nd St., Davenport), this week he succeeded Sara Volz – who left around Thanksgiving to become executive director for the foundation started by Iowa-based pro golfer Zach Johnson.

Palmer College of Chiropractic in September 2021 dedicated the new $10.2-million David D. Palmer Learning Commons, off Brady Street in Davenport.

“I knew that I wanted to stay in fundraising,” Downing (a pianist, singer and actor who worked for West Music 10 years) said Tuesday. “I had a tremendous experience at Palmer College. I knew there was an opportunity in doing development work, doing work with outstanding individuals passionate about their organization, and if an opportunity like that in the Quad Cities fine arts came up, I would pursue that.”

When the Figge job became available, he leapt at the chance, and Downing said he wouldn’t be at the art museum without his valuable time at Palmer – which will be celebrating its 125th anniversary this September. He said the community will be blown away by what the college has in store for their big celebration.

“Of the many things I have learned about working with Palmer’s outstanding alumni is that they are among the most passionate and dedicated people to a specific profession that I have ever met,” Downing posted on Facebook. “Their devotion and enthusiasm of chiropractic care and helping people of all ages live their best lives possible has been — and continues to be — encouraging and inspirational.

“As my professional career now guides me back toward my passion and love of the fine arts, my goal is to bring their kind of energy and joy to my new position at the Figge,” he wrote. “I’m so appreciative to so many Palmer alumni for their support of the college and the students, their kindness, and their friendship.”

The Figge Art Museum is at 225 W. 2nd St., Davenport.

Downing admires the Figge mission statement: “Bringing art and people together. We enrich our community with the experience of art through education, collections, exhibitions and preservation.”

“As a citizen of the Quad Cities for nearly 13 years, it has always been incredible to see the Figge bring their statement to life, and I cannot wait to help their team advance this mission throughout our community and beyond,” he said.

Appreciation for the museum partnerships

“One of many things that excited me about the Figge is their involvement with the Quad-City community, the support it receives from the region and the collaboration the Figge has with so many treasured organizations in the Quad Cities,” Downing said. “That really excited me, and it’s been wonderful to be back in the world of the arts.”

As the first chiropractic college in the world (founded in 1897), Palmer awards more scholarships than any such college in the country, Downing said. It’s focused on many capital projects and increasing its endowment in the past few years.

“I went from just a world-class team at Palmer College to a world-class team at the Figge,” he said Tuesday. “In my three years at Palmer, I made lifelong friends and colleagues. I’ve only been at the Figge two days, but there’s no doubt it will be the same thing. They have given me a warm welcome to the museum.

For almost 10 years (until April 2019), Downing worked at West Music in Moline as a Certified Piano Consultant and Institutional Sales Representative.

“This new position seems a perfect marriage of the jobs I had before — the incredible fundraising staff at Palmer College; getting to know so many incredible people in the arts community while at West Music,” he said. “It’s a great marriage of the two of them.

“I am beyond humbled that the Figge considered me, and asked me to be part of their team,” Downing said. “I am humbled and honored for the opportunity to work with this extraordinary team, for one of the most treasured cultural beacons of the Quad Cities and the entire Midwest.”

Visitors at the Figge Art Museum.

The museum is also an uplifting, inspiring workplace, since there’s so much beautiful art on the walls, he said.

“We have an office environment, where we can get our work done, but if you want to look at world-class artwork, you simply walk out the door,” Downing said.

He’s still getting accustomed to his new responsibilities, and mentioned the Figge’s diversity fund is a main priority.

The museum is in the midst of raising $100,000 for a new Art Diversity and Equity Fund intended to combat systemic inequality in the art world, including diversifying the Figge’s collection. The fund was launched last July with a lead gift from locals Jim and Michelle Russell of Russell Construction.

Jim and Michelle Russell announcing a major $20,000 gift to the Figge’s new art diversity and equity fund in July 2021 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“That’s a mission that we carry very heavily at the Figge and we’re extremely thankful for the Russells and what they did last year,” Downing said.

He and his wife Kristena live in Davenport with their three sons, ages 6, 2, and almost five months.

For more information on the Figge, visit their website.