Summer of the Arts

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For more than 30 years, artists and musicians have been descending on Iowa City in June for the Iowa Arts Festival—and the community has reaped the benefits.

The free celebration of art and music is just one of the events organized by the Summer of the Arts, a nonprofit with the mission of building community by bringing people together in Iowa City to “experience, learn about, and enjoy free arts and cultural programs.”

It puts together a full slate of summer programs for a wide variety of tastes, starting with the Friday Night Concert Series, which is held weekly on Pedestrian Plaza in front of the Sheraton Iowa City Hotel from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Check out the full musical schedulehere.

For more than 30 years, the Iowa Arts Festival has brought artist and musicians together.
For more than 30 years, the Iowa Arts Festival has brought artist and musicians together. Alan Light

Next comes the Iowa Art Festival, this year June 5-7, which attracts more than 100 visual artists from across the country to display and sell their artwork. There is live music throughout the festival, food vendors and kids activities. Organizers expect close to 35,000 people to attend the festival.

“I think there are so many great aspects to this festival that there is truly something for everyone,” said Summer of the Arts executive director Lisa Barnes. ”We offer a combination of local and national performers on the main stage focusing on bluegrass, folk and rock, all genres that are very popular in this area.

“We also have a Family Stage in conjunction with the children's activities, where we feature puppet shows, dance, music, etc.,” she said. “Culinary Row is always a hit with a wide variety of foods for every taste.”

On June 17-20,MusicIC brings chamber music to Iowa City. The free concerts will be held on Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Trinity Episcopal Church, Friday night at the Englert Theater and Saturday at the Iowa City Public Library.

TheIowa City Jazz Festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. Named one of the top ten jazz festivals in the country, the festival will feature a variety of well-known jazz musicians as well as up-and-coming young talent. The main state will be on the University of Iowa Pentacrest in front of the Old Capitol, with additional stages throughout the festival. You’ll also be able to enjoy art, a culinary row of vendors and a fun zone for kids along Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue.

TheSoul Festival, on Aug. 28-29, is a celebration featuring dance, music food and the art of African and African-American communities. This year a special gospel brunch is being planned for the Sunday morning.

Finally, the Summer of the Arts is planning afree movie series from June 13 to Aug. 22. Movies are screened at the University of Iowa Pentacrest outside of Macbride Hall. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs and enjoy both classic and contemporary films. The series opens with Guardians of the Galaxy on June 13, and includes, Frozen, Mary Poppins, and To Kill a Mockingbird. See the full schedulehere.


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