Thursday, December 6, 2012


A new arts organization has been formed in the Quad City Area. The Art Legacy League (ALL) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the tradition of art education principles as developed by the Reverend Edward M. Catich, world renowned calligrapher, stone inscription carver, epigrapher, paleographer, printer and liturgical artist, who served as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Davenport until his death in 1979. As a professor for St. Ambrose University and founder of its Art Department, Catich taught Art as an essential development of various skill sets within calligraphy, drawing, painting and a variety of other art forms. Reverend Catich believed that those skills were learned through disciplined practice, which was the responsibility of each individual who would choose to be a successful artist. The Art Legacy League is an organization that celebrates the heritage of accomplished artists of the past and welcomes the artists of the future to share in the enthusiasm of traditional art methods.

The ALL Board of Directors is comprised of former Catich students: Paul Herrera, Chairman, George Ohley, Vice Chair. Jeff Young, Treasurer, with Directors Linda Kelty, John Bald, Katie Kiley, Amy Nielsen, Donna Young, Steve Morford, and
Nancy Trottier, Webmaster. They have been very active in the international art community since its formal inception as a nonprofit in January 2012. The ALL has been responsible for several lectures and seminars across the U.S. and Canada. “The Life and Times of Edward M. Catich” lecture was given in Chicago, IL; Cedar Rapids, IA;  Minneapolis, MN; Davenport, IA; Kansas City, MO; Boston, MA; Deep River and Ottawa, ON, Canada. Brush writing seminars and stone inscription cutting demonstrations in the style of Catich were given in Kansas City, MO; Portland, OR; Norwood, MA; Deep River and Ottawa, ON, Canada.  More recently, the ALL has developed a traveling exhibit of Reverend Catich’s works, which just completed its inaugural showing at the Hallmark Cards gallery in Kansas City, MO.

Paul Herrera, Chairman of the Board for ALL, was Father Catich’s primary apprentice during the last five years of his life. Paul graduated from St. Ambrose and continued to work with Father Catich on stone inscription commissions until the time of his death. Herrera has been traveling nationally and internationally to offer lectures and teach workshops in Brush Writing during 2012. Herrera has been working on the Catich Biography for the past three years. He has completed research trips to the Los Angeles County Museum, Harvard University and the Boston Public Library to gather more information for the book. Publication is slated for late 2013. He and the other members are also working on a Catich catalog raisonĂ©e of Father Catich’s works.

George Ohley knew Catich for over 40 years and says “Father Catich trained disciplined artists for success. He was a no-nonsense guy but we knew that he truly cared about his students.” Jeff Young, owner of Young Art and Sign in Davenport, studied with Catich for three years. “Not until I began my career as a sign painter and graphic designer did I appreciate the importance of Father’s affinity for the basics of letter forms and spacing. Freedom in design is only achieved when the constraints of the basics are accepted.”  Amy Nielsen is a well-known Quad City Calligrapher and Artist who teaches regularly at the Figge and through the St. Ambrose University ACCEL Program. She commented on the preparation for teaching Father stressed to all his students. “Father Catich was my mentor and friend for only a year and a half. He would always stress the keeping of a very detailed and complete notebook for his classes. "Who knows? You may end up teaching this class one day" he would say. I teach all my classes like Father taught me.... with a velvet hammer. Paul says it best; He was our TITAN.” Nancy Tottier, who also serves on the Board of Directors of The Museum of Printing in North Andover, MA, is actively researching Catich’s role within the community of scholar/artists/printers who operated private presses in the United States during the 20th century. Trottier studied with Catich during the last year of his life as well. She now lives in Canada and is actively teaching workshops in Calligraphy, Brush Writing, and Book Arts using the Catich Method. “Father was my teacher, my priest and my friend at a time in my life when I needed all three.”

The Art Legacy League is bringing their message home to the Quad Cities in 2013 through the creation of the Catfish Letter Arts School, a series of workshops and classes to be offered at the Bettendorf Community Center, 2204 Grant Street, Bettendorf, Iowa from January through May. Courses will include Calligraphic Handwriting, Introduction to Calligraphy, Introduction to Brush Writing, Paper Marbling, and Introduction to Book Arts. Most of the instructors will hold a “Meet and Greet” on Saturday, January 19, from 9:00 a.m. – 12 noon at the Bettendorf Community Center. The instructors will demonstrate various calligraphy and art techniques and provide course outlines for the workshops to be offered. The ALL hopes to conclude the year with a Catfish Letter Arts School Retreat during the fall of 2013. The retreat will be a five day intensive series of workshops, lectures, and demonstrations with internationally known instructors. Details for the retreat are still being organized. For more information on the Art Legacy League and the Catfish Letter Arts School programs, please see the group’s website,

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Father Edward Michael Catich (1906-1979)

Reverend Edward Michael Catich remains the leading authority of the Imperial Roman letter as found at the Trajan Column in Rome, Italy. The Trajan Inscription has been generally regarded by paleographers, calligraphers and others interested in the letter arts as the finest example of the best period of Roman monumental lettering. It is accepted as the basic model of the Roman alphabet. Until Father Catich, the majority of the studies made of this inscription were not based on the original stone, but on reproductions of it which were in many ways misleading.

E. M. Catich began his intensive paleographic and epigraphic research throughout Europe and the Middle East in 1935 as he studied for the priesthood in Rome. After his ordination in December of 1938, he returned innumerable times over the course of his life to gather facts which he published in two major works; Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscription (1961) and Origin of the Serif (1968). Both books were published by his own Catfish Press at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa where he was chairman of the Art Department. Father Catich did more than just write about the letters on the Trajan Inscription, he made an actual full-sized cast* directly from the monument itself. A feat that will, most likely, never be repeated.

Father Catich is well known as an author, stonecutter, calligrapher, photographer, musician, liturgical artist, historian and lecturer. He taught at St. Ambrose College (now University) for over forty years, to include the years he attended as an undergraduate student when he taught music. He taught Art at the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery an equal number of years and offered calligraphy workshops all across the country during his lifetime.

*located at the RR Donnelley Corporate offices in Chicago, Illinois

Father Catich’s private press was located on St. Ambrose campus but it was not funded by the university. Therefore, he could not call it the St. Ambrose College Press. His initial reasoning behind the press was the advancement of the Pictorial Apostolate and so the name should reflect its religious roots. The logotype incorporates the initial letters CP (Catfish Press) which are also designed to read as the Greek letter phi and the Chi-Rho ligature (XP) combined with the catfish and read as “Jesus Christ our Light,” to signify the guiding beacon for the Catfish Press.

The Art Legacy League has been formed to ensure that Catich and his legacy are not forgotten.