Riverbank Art Fair highlights Riverfest's weekend festivities


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For 37 years, jewelry-maker Wes Honeycutt has opted not to sell his work at jewelry stores, choosing the more creative, community-centered art fairs instead — including the University of Iowa’s Riverbank Art Fair, coming up Saturday and April 28 in the IMU.

“Jewelry-making is an art form the way I do it,” said Honeycutt, who has participated in the UI Fine Art Council’s Riverbank Fair for more than 15 years. “Riverbank is the kind of fair that you look for: It’s a well-balanced fair with lots of art, and the students give it a young, fun flavor.”

Riverbank is one of student-organized events happening this weekend in conjunction with RiverFest, an annual program celebrating the alleged coming of spring and graduating UI seniors. This year more than ever, RiverFest staff members have collaborated with other student and alumni organizations to offer a spectrum of activities that started on Monday and will run through April 28.

“We want to reach as many people as we can and give seniors that one last hurrah,” RiverFest Executive Director Michael Montgomery said. “The weather should be nice, and getting outside may give students a chance to relax before finals week and showcase what we’ve got going on in the UI community.”

In 1978, RiverFest began as a small student-run event celebrating the importance of the Iowa River in the community. It developed into an outdoor carnival, competition, and local music series.

Although the programming has been dampened in the years since the 2008 flood (so to speak), Montgomery said this year’s festival will bring back some of the traditional aspects of the program, particularly the local musicians and carnival activities, both of which will be present at Saturday’s River Festival in Hubbard Park.

“We’re really going back to what it was [four years ago],” Montgomery said. “I want people to get a good look at what’s going on in the University of Iowa community.”

This includes increased collaboration with such organizations as the Campus Activities Board and the UI Alumni Association, which — along with holding a UI Team Trivia Night on Tuesday and a Last Lecture for seniors tonight — will host a dodge-ball tournament at Kinnick Stadium on April 28 benefiting Dance Marathon and the UI Children’s Hospital.

“We’ve joined forces with the [Center for Student Involvement and Leadership] and RiverFest to see if we could work well together to create some bigger and better events for Senior Week,” said Susan Griffith, the director of alumni programs for the UI Alumni Association. “It’s kind of the reverse of On Iowa. I think it’s a great way to acknowledge the graduation process, celebrate spring, and keep seniors engaged after graduation.”

RiverFest has also kept close ties with decades-old partners such as the RiverRun fitness charity, holding a 5K and 10K April 28, and the Fine Art Council’s Riverbank event.

“The Riverbank Art Fair and RiverFest have a long history together,” Montgomery said. “It’s cool to have a variety of culture and diversify events. Riverbank has huge success with a lot of local artists.”

Scheduled to be indoors for the first time in its history, the fair will be held Saturday and April 28 starting at 10 a.m. in the IMU, with approximately 95 artists from five states selling and displaying clay, wood, fiber, and glass art as well as jewelry, paintings, drawings, and more.

There will also be a wine-tasting at noon Saturday, a 3-year-old feature that Fine Arts Council Marketing Director Lily Allen-Duenas said adds to the artistic atmosphere.

“We’re a fine-arts show, not a craft show,” she said. “We don’t have dolls made out of tissue and cork. We really emphasize the art and want to find things that go well with fine art.”

Like RiverFest, she said, the Fine Arts Council has been working to attract more student patrons and artists, with five to 10 students presenting items at the fair alongside seasoned Riverbank participants such as Honeycutt.

“People just know this show — it’s become a part of the community, especially for people who have lived here forever,”  UI student Allen-Duenas said. “It has a good presence, and it’s pretty damn awesome that it’s completely student-run.”

Griffith shared Allen-Duenas’ enthusiasm for RiverFest’s student-centered programs, hoping that the newer collaborative events will develop the same longevity as the Riverbank Art Fair.

“We’re all on the same team,” she said. “We want to grow this week into a hallmark set of activities that not only graduating seniors can look forward to but other students and all community members.”

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