The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Festival celebrates unfinished works by local and professional artists

When attending an art festival, one expects to see completed designs on display, presented for the audience’s appraisal. This is not the case for Iowa City’s Works-in-Progress Festival.

The festival, taking place today through Saturday at various locations, features artists of nearly all media presenting unfinished works.

“Watching artists and makers and thinkers from all disciplines put forth new ideas, step out of their comfort zones, reach out for advice, cross platforms, etc., really made me feel like everything we do in life is and can be an art form, but also that the most exciting thing about making, creating and sharing is the process,” said 2010 and 2012 festival artist Lori Felker.

“The basic idea is that we showcase unfinished work or work that is in progress,” said Richard Wieber, a cofounder of the festival. “We’re also really interested in works that can only work in the present moment or just an idea for an impossible project. It can be a more creative interpretation of ‘in-progress.’ We’re very adamant about having every type of art represented. We really want artists to think about projects across different media.”  

Representing every art form requires a lot of artists. More than 50 local Iowa City artists will present their art during the festival, in addition to other professionals.

“The thing that I think is really, really important about it is that we want to replace the difference between amateur and professional artists,” Wieber said. “In addition to local artists, we bring in each year very distinguished artists. They engage in conversations with local artists in addition to sharing their own works in progress.”

Each year the featured artists change, bringing their own special input to the festival. This year the festival will feature Chip Lord, a digital-media artist, and Kenneth Goldsmith, a poet. Organizers of the festival are very excited for both to show off their current projects.

“[Goldsmith] is going to be presenting a work in progress that he’s been working on for eight years that he feels may never be finished,” Wieber said.

In addition to sharing their projects, guest artists will also listen to audience feedback and converse with attendees.

“It is an interactive festival,” Wieber said. “It’s a situation where audience members can actually have ideas about how to finish projects. It’s important that we’re collaborating with other parties and departments. We have aspiring undergraduate writers working alongside graduate and professional writers. It’s merging the playing field so these aspiring artists can work alongside professionals.”

“What’s most valuable is that the audience is invited to respond with their ideas about the works presented,” said Chelsea Cox, a participant and graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. “The excitement and enthusiasm about the work presented is palpable, because what the project could be is yet to be determined.”

The afternoon panels included in the festival will also contain a mixture of professional and amateur artists.

“The panels are made up of four artists,” said Wieber. “We program it so that each of those artists are working in a different medium, and we give them each 15 minutes to present, and then we open it up to audience questions. It allows people to present what they’re working on and then participate with the audience.”

The Works-in-Progress Festival is unique because of this interactive element and inclusion of all media as well as its display of incomplete work.

“I founded the festival with my colleague Andrew Ritchey,” Wieber said.

After attending a typical film festival, the two said they were struck by the frustration surrounding typical festival practices.

“So we thought about what we could do that would be a bit more interesting,” Wieber said. “It creates a vulnerability in the artist to be on display in this way. Iowa City seemed like a unique place to do that, because the arts across the board are very strong, so it seemed like a self-evident idea that these people should be talking about their work and their process.”

IWP and Anthology readings/performances and performance by XOXO (Dora Malech, A.C. Hawley, Jason Livingston, Kyle Stine, Chad Vollrath), 9 p.m., Public Space Z, 120 N. Dubuque


Kenneth Goldsmith, 7 p.m., The Center

10:30pm @ Walnut Farms


For a more detailed list of events, visit the Works-in-Progress Festival website at

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