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Summer of the Arts announces cancellation of Iowa Arts Fest, other COVID-19 related changes



A pedestrian observes the main stage of the 2013 Iowa Arts Festival before the festivities. — Rachel Jessen/Little Village

Iowa City’s Summer of the Arts organization announced a slew of changes to their summer 2020 programming on Friday, most prominent being the cancellation of their flagship festival, the Iowa Arts Festival, scheduled for June 5-7.

The Iowa Arts Festival, which has been produced for more than 35 years, regularly brings more than 100 fine artists to downtown Iowa City, as well as local, regional and national touring performers. Street closures, free bus service, the ever-popular food vendors and dedicated programming for all ages have made the event accessible to, and frequented by, the wider Iowa City community. The Emerging Artist Pavilion in particular has served young artists in recent years by offering the sort of professional opportunity that can be hard to access.

In their statement, Summer of the Arts noted, “We are looking at creative ways to incorporate some of your favorite parts of the Iowa Arts Festival into events later in the summer.”

The Friday Night Concert Series is also seeing changes, with all May concerts canceled. They are looking into options for June for the Friday series, the Northside Concert Series and the Free Movie Series.

“We are working on ways to share some virtual concerts,” the statement read, “and hope to reschedule the movies for later in the year.”

The Friday Night Concert Series had been scheduled to start May 22; the Northside Concert Series is currently set to kick off on June 13 with the Fez. The Free Movie Series is also scheduled to begin June 13, with Captain Marvel on the docket.

A scene from Iowa Soul Fest 2016. — courtesy of Summer of the Arts

Summer of the Arts indicated that they are hopeful that the Soul and Blues Festival (July 31-Aug. 1), will continue as planned.

The Soul and Blues Fest, which began last year as a reworked version of the Iowa Soul Fest, features a fashion show and DJ dance party on Friday night and headliner Nora Jean, a Chicago-based blues singer-songwriter, on Saturday night, along with a Black Authors Panel and local acts including perennial favorite Kevin B.F. Burt.

“We have a great line-up planned,” the statement read, “and hope we’ll be able to get together then.”

Update: Summer of the Arts plans to make final decisions with regards to its July programming, including the Iowa City Jazz Festival (scheduled for July 3-5), later this month.

Another major Iowa City summer event, the Downtown Block Party, was also canceled Friday. Like Summer of the Arts, the Iowa City Downtown District said they hope to adapt their block party, which attracted 42,000 visitors in 2019, into smaller, safer programs throughout the summer.

A giant Jenga player tests physics at the Downtown Block Party. June 24, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

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