International calligraphy conference draws artists to Davenport

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Anne Marie Amacher
Katie Beery of Inver Grove Heights, Minn., chisels on slate during the Roman Holiday 2024 Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Conference at St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Hundreds of artists from across the world convened on the St. Ambrose University campus June 22-29 for the Roman Holiday 2024 Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Conference. Chicago Calligraphy Collective hosts the annual event, which this year drew nearly 300 people in-person and online and was the first in-person conference since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically held in larger cities, the conference this year recognized the late Father Edward Catich, a priest of the Diocese of Davenport, calligrapher, musician, inscription cutter, consultant, artist and author. Paul Herrera, a student and apprentice of Father Catich, gave a talk and taught a class during the conference. He is a member of the Art Legacy League in Davenport that promotes and preserves the priest’s work.

Julie Wildman, communications chair for the conference, said, “I think the connection to Father Catich was a huge plus for us. Introducing our little world of calligraphy to his archives and the people who are carrying on his legacy was an important link to many who attended. I heard lots of comments about how little people knew about (Father) Catich as a person and how grateful they were to have learned more about him as an artist as well as a calligrapher. I, for one, was stunned by his sketchbooks and used one of his sketching techniques in a calligraphic piece I did in my class.”

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“I think people were charmed by Davenport and the historical significance of the town,” Wildman said. “Many had only heard of the Mississippi River, so seeing it was quite the thrill.” Attendees “highly praised St. Ambrose. They loved how small the campus was and how easy it was to get around. They continually praised the SAU staff and our amazing interns,” she said.

Something new to many attendees was Midwestern weather and a tornado. “It was a big topic of conversation.”

Dozens of classes were held in person on the St. Ambrose campus and some online. Participants viewed several displays of Father Catich’s work in the library, Galvin Fine Arts Center and Christ the King Chapel.

Herrera taught a stone (slate) letter-carving class in person. He taught the students to chisel into slate and to add gold leaf to finish their projects.

Amity Parks of Missoula, Montana, a frequent conference-goer, described the class as fantastic. “We were immersed in Father Catich’s world. This was the perfect topic for the work.” Edna Porter of Elma, Washington was glad to take the beginner’s carving session. “I’ve never done this before.” The class challenged and interested her to continue carving at home after she purchases the appropriate utensils. Katie Beery of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota said St. Ambrose University was the right place for the event.  Inspired by the work of Father Catich and Herrera, she chose to take the carving class.

Participants from beginners to experts had the opportunity to create artwork in a variety of areas, such as cursive on vellum, watercolor, and exploring the Dutch approach to letters. Herrera’s classroom also offered electroplates of Father Catich’s works from the Catholic Art Quarterly. The interest of those in attendance who saw Father Catich’s works impressed Herrera. “They couldn’t get enough.”


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