By Devyn Young
Discuss the unknown.
Not an easy task, yet that’s the goal of the new Witching Hour festival.
Witching Hour will fly through central Iowa City Friday and Saturday with artists aiming to explore and engage with the unknown via performance and conversation.
“Witching Hour includes artists, thinkers, futurists, scientists … all sorts of different types of performers who are pushing the boundaries in their own media and doing crazy things that nobody else is doing or simply creating new work,” said Aly High, the Witching Hour marketing director.
The festival came together over the past year as a joint project between the Englert Theater and Little Village.
“The minds behind it are the minds behind festivals like Entrefest and Mission Creek Festival, and they’ve all been booking shows for a really long time and have it down to a science,” High said. “The vibe of Witching Hour is getting back to their roots.”
The roots of festivals are booking — finding performers to fill the space. To bring the fun back to booking, High said, they didn’t allow themselves to start booking until June, very late for typical procedure.
Englert Executive Director Andre Perry, who serves as one of the festival curators, said artists always go through challenging periods before realizing fantastic ideas. He said it would be interesting for audiences to hear and see those processes.
“The initial idea hacked a couple of years ago, and I was trying to think of an event that could bring in people to see artists and thinkers who were maybe a little bit under the radar, maybe a little bit less known, and figure out a way to get them onto a stage or into a room so people could see all of this interesting work that people are up to,” Perry said. “It’s all driven by the idea of people who make things, whether they’re artists or entrepreneurs.”
The festival’s artists and thinkers were selected by the curators for a simple reason: They wanted to see them.
“Everyone on the team broke out individually and picked a theme that they liked, some picked [literature], others focused on comedy, and they all brought back new work that was exciting for them as individuals,” High said. “We put together the festival bringing all of these crazy ideas together.”
Various locals are speaking as well as performing throughout the festival, including Leslie Nolte, the founder of dance studio Nolte Academy in Coralville.
“I love Mission Creek and the idea of it, and when I heard about Witching Hour, I knew that I wanted to get involved from the beginning,” Nolte said.
Nolte and other Iowa City artists will lead a discussion Friday called “Is It Art If No One Sees It?” They will give a small presentation to get the conversation going, then let the group take control.
As a dancer and choreographer, Nolte said she is an artist at heart. But she’s also a business owner.
“Over the last 16 years or so, I’ve become really interested in startup and the entrepreneurial community, and I’ve experienced it for myself that the artists in our society can’t be immune to the laws of economics,” she said. “I’ve had so many friends who have lived, or are living, the life of starving artists … and it’s sort of a discussion on that. We’ve titled it ‘Is It Art if No One Sees It?’ because that’s the platform. If you want to reach a larger audience, you have to think of it like an entrepreneur.”
Witching Hour does not merely feature artists, it will also highlight its fair share of thinkers and scientists. One is Cornelia Lang, a University of Iowa associate professor of astronomy. She will give a presentation on Friday afternoon about her research on the Milky Way.
“I really strongly believe in themes,” Lang said. “I really like the idea that this festival is focused on a theme rather than just having a collection of different performers and artists and thinkers where you go to them because they’re famous for a certain reason … so I really like the idea it’s focused around themes, and then you find people that are working toward that one theme.”
High said she believes anyone who comes to this festival will learn something.
“[Witching Hour] is a new experience,” she said. “I think that it’s important to break out of our routines and instead of only going to shows that you love or only going to movies that you’ve seen before, I think it’s important to experience new things … to engage in new types of art or see art from people that you like that is new to you.
“It’s a really good opportunity to explore spaces that maybe you haven’t before or were intimidated by. I think people want to be there at the start of something special.”
Where: Various locations throughout Iowa City
When: 2 p.m-1:30 a.m., Friday
Noon-12:30 a.m., Saturday
Admission: $25 one-day pass, $45 two-day pass, some student tickets available
Full Schedule available at http://www.witchinghourfestival.com/schedule/