MidWestOne to promote community appreciation with Iowa City’s first-ever chalk art festival

Rock the Chalk

Downtown Iowa City — Friday, August 12 at 4 p.m.

MidWestOne Bank will host Rock the Chalk, Iowa City’s first chalk art festival, on Friday, August 12 in downtown Iowa City — photo by Jordan Sellergren

Rock the Chalk, presented by MidWestOne Bank, is a celebration of the completion of its historic building renovations as well as construction of a new building. Amy Hospodarsky, the community relations manager for MidWestOne, said that they wanted to use the Aug. 12 event to thank Iowa Citians for their patience: “When we started planning a grand opening for the two buildings, we decided that we wanted the event to be a community party that we could invite the community at large [to], in order to thank them for their patience throughout our construction process, and really celebrate Iowa City as our home town.”

The bank, headquartered in downtown Iowa City since 1934, has a long history with the community, including hosting art from local students in its lobby and, for over 25 years, producing a calendar of selected art pieces. MidWestOne has also sponsored the Flyover Fashion Fest and FilmScene’s Family Film Series. The idea for Rock the Chalk builds on this history of sponsoring the arts, and also of involving the community. There will be over 40 artists, both amateurs and professionals, chalking pieces loosely based on the theme “Home Sweet Iowa City.” The sidewalk art will span South Clinton St. between both buildings, starting at the bank’s headquarters on the corner of Clinton and Washington and ending at the new building just south of Burlington on Clinton St.

The event will also include an interactive tour of the historical building. Hospodarsky adds, “This was a complete historically accurate restoration of when it was built in 1912. The building hadn’t been remodeled since 1984, when we added a two story addition. When we started to explore renovation options, it became an obvious choice for us to make a nod to our roots and historically restore it. When we completed the project this spring, it was placed on the national historical registry.” The National Register of Historic Places has named 90,000 buildings to its list nationwide, including 72 other buildings in Iowa City.

Hospardasky is really excited about the event’s family potential as well. “We wanted an event that would be very community oriented and invite people in to participate. A chalk art event does this in many ways. We will have featured artists making 8 foot x 8 foot pieces north of Burlington. We’re excited about this because these spaces will not just be artists in the traditional sense of the word. We have really opened this up to be families, community groups, artists, and even some local businesses. We will also have live music outside of each building along with family friendly entertainment such as balloons, face painting, character artists, etc. There really will be something for everyone.”

Iowa City’s Miriam Alarcon Avila, local artist and photographer, applied and has been chosen as one of the featured artists for the event. She’s never done chalk art in this way before, and says she “loves the magic of ephemeral art.” Avila continues, “The fleeting quality of chalk really makes the observer part of the piece.” Avila’s art often centers around themes important to her, and her planned piece for the event is no different. “I work with Ecopolis Farm, and the themes of sustainability and inclusion are a big part of my work, although I also work with immigration themes. I like to use the butterfly as a metaphor for my journey, it travels from Iowa to Mexico, and in a way, symbolizes my coming home.” The idea of a new home, in Iowa City, and the “beautiful people of Iowa” will also serve as inspirations for her piece.

The Rock the Chalk festival will also have live music, including two stages of local artists. Iowa City’s own Motherlode will be bringing the funk at 6 p.m. when they headline on the OnePlace stage. The 10 piece funk and rock band has graced many Iowa City stages since forming at the beginning of this year. City High graduate James Tutson headlines the Clinton and Washington stage with his own brand of gospel, soul and folk. Music kicks off at 4 p.m. with former University of Iowa band director Jeff Miguel on the Clinton and Washington stage and Iowa natives the JC Project’s electric classic rock stage show on the OnePlace stage.

A version of this article was originally published in Little Village issue 203.

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