Letter to the editor: Why we should critique newbo evolve

Maroon 5, along with Kelly Clarkson, will headline the first newbo evolve festival Aug. 3-5. — artist photo courtesy of newbo evolve

By Chad R. Cooper, Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids entrepreneur Steve Shriver wrote a letter to The Gazette in February chastising those raising concerns and criticisms of the upcoming newbo evolve festival. Shriver asked, “What do you gain by complaining about an upcoming event?”

Shriver’s loaded question reveals his defensive attitude and skewed perception. It’s also emblematic of what is wrong with the current “creative brain trust” in Cedar Rapids.

There are valid criticisms — not just petty complaints — about newbo evolve.

The overarching criticism: it’s been branded as a “celebration of the Bohemian spirit,” yet many aspects of the event — ticket pricing, mainstream pop acts and lack of people of color on the core lineup — are firmly un-Bohemian.

Organizers have also said the festival is inspired by national events like SXSW and Burning Man, which makes one wonder if any of the organizers have actually been to those events.

Perhaps the organizers would be better served looking just 20 minutes south for inspiration on how to create a festival that is creative, culturally vibrant and accessible. Iowa City’s Mission Creek Festival is comprised of indie music acts, progressive artists and timely lectures — all at a reasonable price.

A festival celebrating the creative spirit is a wonderful idea, but when legitimate criticism is derided and dismissed, it creates an idea vacuum and can cripple a well-intentioned mission. The valid critiques should be seen as valuable input, and those with ideas should be brought into the fold to collaborate and craft an event that truly embodies both creativity and community. Now that’s the Bohemian spirit.

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