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Iowa City opens up

BY ELENA BRUESS | JULY 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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Just another summer night in downtown Iowa City; the sunlight is fading below the Old Capitol Town Center, parents start to call out to their kids that it’s time to go home, young couples hand-in-hand swing by, summer students start out for drinks … Suddenly, a saxophone breaks the silence. The people stop for a moment as Iowa City opens up for the night.

In March, a small committee made up of Iowa City programs such as Public Space One and Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning came together with a new idea. Pursuing something vibrant and distinctive to Iowa City, the group discovered a program that could show off the local talent, Open City.

“Open City is a way to get the performers from around the area out and show what they got,” said Betsy Potter, Downtown District operations director. “It’s in its pilot round now, but so far, it’s gone very well.”

What makes Open City so different, though, is the seemingly sporadic way the performances happen.

“The cool thing is you never know the location or who or what or anything; it just pops up somewhere downtown, and suddenly, you have some band playing,” Potter said.

Open City performances range from jugglers to professional spray painters to a cappella groups throughout the summer, and anyone is open to apply.

“I’ve always wanted to do the street-musician thing,” said Dan DiMonte of Dan DiMonte and the Bad Assettes. “It would be cool to connect with other folks playing with the program as well.”

The program promotes a positive attitude in encouraging young artists to bring what they have to the streets and gives Iowa City something new.

“It brings the music to the people who otherwise might not go check it out on their own,” DiMonte said. “When the entire downtown is your venue, you can definitely get a killer audience.”

As for the future of Open City, it all depends on the research. A University of Iowa team of two professors and two students are in charge of collecting data and documenting the events of the pilot program. Sophie Katz, an intern with the Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning program, is part of the operation.

“Claire Rosen [the other researcher] and I will eventually create a presentation about what worked and what didn’t so that people who do Open City in the future will have some data to base on,” Katz said. “I think it’s great, though; if art is more accessible to the public, then people will seek [it] out on their own, both by attending performances and by creating it themselves.”

Open City will continue well into August and, if it keeps going the way it has, Potter said, next summer may bring the same number of fun and unique performances.


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