Q&A: Summer of the Arts Executive Director Lisa Barnes

BY DI STAFF | JULY 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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The Daily Iowan sat down with Lisa Barnes, the executive director of Summer of the Arts, to discuss this summer's festivals and the significance of the arts in the city.

DI: We're nearing the end of the summer. Obviously, you've had a lot of events through the Summer of the Arts. How do you feel it's gone, overall?

Barnes: I think that this has been a really good year so far, for Summer of the Arts. We're just over halfway through our festival season, because we actually run through the first weekend of September. But with Iowa Arts Festival past and the Iowa City Jazz Festival past, those are our two largest events we sponsor, so it almost feels like we're nearing the end of the season.

Although, obviously, we still have Sand in the City, we still have the Free Summer Movie Series going on, the Friday Night Series, and Downtown Saturday night. There's still a lot more to go on through the rest of the summer.

DI: Was there anything new, anything unexpected that occurred at the prior festivals?

Barnes: Every year, after each festival, we try to review with the planning committee and look at ways we can improve it or expand it or tweak it or make changes. The biggest thing overall the Summer of the Arts has done this year is a green initiative, and that's incorporated, specifically, into our larger festivals by having eco-education tents, eco-stations for composting and recycling, as well as adding bicycle valet parking. Those are some of the new things we did this year.

The other thing that we did just a little bit different this year was with the Free Movie Series. It started in 2005, and initially, a lot of the movies shown were geared more toward kids. And we found over the years it's a real challenge because we can't start the movie until sundown, which is 9 p.m. during the summer. Kids are going to sleep. So this year, we've changed it up and the movies have been geared more toward teenagers and up. So our first movie that we showed was Inception. I think that had probably the biggest crowd I've ever seen at the Free Movie Series.

So I think we're definitely making some changes in the right direction. Having the University of Iowa Pentacrest museums open late before movie, I think, has been an added incentive for people who want to come and get their spot saved and then they can get something to eat, go through the museum.

DI: Have you received positive feedback from the museum as well?

Barnes: Yes, yes, very positive. During the Jazz Festival, it had a tremendous number of people who came through the museum. It was very hot on Friday and still pretty hot on Saturday and Sunday, so it was a nice respite for people to be able to go in and check out the museum and be inside a building that's definitely cooler than outside.

DI: Why do you think the arts mean so much to Iowa City? Why this city?

Barnes: I think this is a very well-educated community. And one of the things that makes it so special is although it's a relatively small community, there are so many opportunities available. Obviously, the University of Iowa is a huge part of that. The Writers' Workshop is a huge part of that. The number of people that come in during the summer for the Writers' Workshop, the number of students who are here throughout the year, and the people who live here — I'm one of those people who came here to college in the late-1970s and stayed because of what this community has to offer. I think what is really interesting is there are so many adults who have their regular jobs, and then, they participate in the arts in some form, at another time.

I think there's a lot of connections in this community and generally, just a lot of support for the arts because this community realizes the importance of the arts.

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