Student artwork shines at the Figge

Home to the Midwest’s finest art collections and host of world-class traveling exhibitions, the Figge Art Museum in Davenport is an art lover’s dream. From exhibits featuring breathtaking paintings to Haitian sculptures, it’s a destination for tourists, locals, schools, and of course, aspiring artists who dream of displaying their work on the towering, white walls.

Four of those aforementioned aspiring artists are Eastern Iowa Community Colleges’ students, now living their dream with paintings, a drawing and wood-block carving beautifully on display under the bright lights of the Figge’s Katz Gallery.

group photo of Figge program

“It’s very, very exciting,” said Maggie Borota, a freshman at Scott Community College (SCC). “I didn’t expect something like this to happen going into college. This is the biggest stage I’ve ever showcased my artwork.”

Borota, fellow SCC student Bobby McNamar, and Clinton Community College students Cora Leonard and Anne Swan-Johnson, were selected by their art instructors to create a piece of artwork for the Figge’s annual College Invitational. The talented artists are among 42 students from area colleges and universities chosen to showcase their creativity in mediums such as drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, clay, digital illustration, silkscreen, mixed media and found materials.

For her piece, Borota decided to paint a self-portrait using acrylic paint on a large 4’ by 2’ canvas, drawing inspiration from the emotions of being a first-year college student during the pandemic.

“I tried to reflect on how I was feeling,” she said. “I kind of just felt somber in a sense, like I was repeating the same thing a lot.”

From this feeling, her painting “Through the Motions” evolved. A series of three self-portraits rendered from different angles and connected via flowing locks of hair, the piece features a backdrop of colorful flowers that become warmer and more abundant as one looks from left to right.

self portrait art display

“Although the year has overall felt lackluster and like it could stretch on for an eternity, I know through reflection I have grown. Not only as an art student, but a person as well. I wanted this to be represented by showing flowers coming into full bloom because as time moves on so do we,” Borota wrote in her artist’s statement.

For CCC sophomore Cora Leonard, inspiration came from another deeply personal place—a daughter’s love. When presented with the opportunity to display her art at the Figge, she knew she wanted to create a piece dedicated to her mom. Sketching her mom’s senior portrait in charcoal, pencil, watercolor and acrylic paint, she gave the old photo new life.

pose with portrait

“She was excited, but kind of embarrassed about everyone seeing her senior portrait again,” Leonard said. “She is very proud of my accomplishment. It’s kind of surreal to see my artwork being in a professional museum.”

For three weeks she worked on the project, which provided a welcome refuge from constantly being “plugged in” to her online classes.

“It was kind of like an escape from having to be online, it was difficult to adjust and having that outlet to create got my mind off of everything,” she said.

Anne Swan-Johnson, a non-traditional student 80 years young, can relate. Creating art has served as an outlet and sparked joy in her heart for more than 60 years. A lover of vibrant colors and well versed in everything from painting to ceramics to drawing, she has been taking art classes at Clinton Community College for years. For the exhibit, she carved a wood-block print of a rabbit riding a turtle down the road.

pose with framed art

“It’s fanciful and fun!” she said. “I have taken art classes all of my life; it’s something you can share. Art requires both your brain and emotions, between those two things it’s all encompassing. I enjoy it and it satisfies a part of life I need.”

The Figge College Invitational will be on display through June 6, 2021. To view photographs of each of the student’s artwork as well as learn more about the exhibit, visit

Art at EICC

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges offers a wide variety of fine arts classes at its Clinton, Muscatine and Scott campuses. Whether you plan on pursuing a four-year degree in art like Cora Leonard, earning an Associate’s Degree and becoming a fulltime artist like Maggie Borota, or just want to take classes for personal enjoyment like Anne Swan-Johnson, we have the classes you need to learn and grow in your craft!

Learn more about our programs at