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Will Wolf (at right) with "Wolfpack" members Sarah Christopher, left, Oliver Klipsch, Lauren Young, Korina Smith, Lily Hessling, Ayanna Miles, Delia Erickson and Kaylynn Ruffin at Creative Arts Academy, Davenport.

Starting May 16, Will Wolf will be cycling across America (CAA) for the Davenport-based Creative Arts Academy (CAA), to raise $100,000 for the five-year-old magnet school.

The 60-year-old business executive, formerly chief financial officer for Rock Island-based Barjan LLC, has a Davenport home near CAA department chairman Joel Franken, and Wolf's wife Laura is a member of the CAA advisory board.

“I've always liked bicycling, but never done cross country,” Will Wolf said Monday, noting he'll use a three-wheel recumbent bike, riding from Washington State to his hometown of Baltimore, Md. “I've always had this dream ever since I was 20 or so, of doing this.”

“There are certain times I've had certain people in my life, who have always been there, and some medical situation cropped up and shortened their lives,” he said, noting a Walter Payton quote, “Tomorrow is promised to no one.” “ Why not now? If I'm going to bike across the country, I'll try raising money for a cause I feel passionate about. It resonated right away.”

Wolf, who's made a career in corporate finance, is currently between jobs and his wife suggested devoting the 2,900-mile ride to a charitable cause.

“Our neighbors came up with a forum to teach creative people and to engage the community; that's something that really resonated with both of us,” Laura Murphy Wolf said. “Education is important to both of us, the Quad-City area, to make sure arts are available to this community.”

The area's first arts magnet school — mainly for Davenport junior-high and high-school students — was funded its first year from a four-year $500,000 grant from the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, $160,000 from Regional Development Authority and $120,000 from Scott County Regional Authority.

In 2015, it got a three-year $750,000 grant from the Bechtel Trusts, which last year committed again to giving $200,000 a year for four years, as a challenge grant, Franken said Tuesday.

“It's been really tremendous — it's opened the coffers for other organizations to come on board,” he said of Bechtel as a fundraising catalyst.

Bechtel "has been a huge supporter of the academy since the very beginning and without their support, we simply would not be here," said Jessica Taylor, CAA coordinator and development specialist.

“When we talked to Will and Laura, what we'll use the money for, we can give to other artists in the Quad-Cities, to show off their talents so that our kids get to know there are people making a living at the fine arts,” Franken said. “It shows who the people are in the Quad-Cities, and it gives them (the artists) a platform to do their thing. I just feel those people can't do that for nothing.”

“Besides money for artists to come in, we always need supplies, goods for the art classes. Equipment is a big thing; we're looking at replacing lights,” he added. “We don't have lot of ceramic or sculpture equipment. We could use some of it for that.”

Laura Wolf said when she first saw the CAA, she said she was impressed by the energy and discipline of the students, and leadership of the school. “It is quite remarkable.”

“The kids come into school with such energy, enthusiasm, it's incredible,” she said. "With the arts, if you're looking at a problem, some kids learn with different techniques, different motivation. It sparks their imagination.”

The only program of its kind in Iowa, and the only one between Chicago and Omaha, the Davenport school district launched CAA with arts organizations such as River Music Experience, Figge Art Museum, Quad City Arts, Circa '21 and local photography, video and communications companies.

Will Wolf said he almost became a photography major, instead of finance, at the University of Baltimore. His first assignment for a college photo class (at Maryland Institute of Arts) was to shoot an inanimate object he had an attachment to — a Pink Panther stuffed animal, which Wolf photographed all over, and later took it around the world. You can see his photos at https://willwolf.com/gallery.

“Photography is a passion that has continued throughout my life,” he wrote on the CAA project site, caa4caa.com. Photography has provided him “with the tools to successfully solve complex business issues by using a different lens than a more traditional approach,” Wolf wrote, noting “creativity and authenticity” are the tenets of how he conducts himself professionally and personally, “the same as the CAA.”

“It's really a great experience,” he said of CAA in the interview. “It's such a unique thing. I'm excited that the Quad-Cities has the experience and the opportunity. They really want to work and engage with the community. “

A group of eighth grade CAA students who call themselves the Wolfpack will help track Wolf's progress, blog about it and promote it through social media. The CAA also plans to have a fundraiser and talent show in the third week of June, when Wolf is expected to come through Davenport, Franken said.

After the end of the school year June 6, the CAA offers a variety of summer workshops for students throughout the Q-C, available at http://bit.ly/2GTufVV.

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Reporter

Jonathan is a reporter for the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com.

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