Englert, Little Village brew up another year of Witching Hour in Iowa City

Inviting a plethora of artists for one weekend, Witching Hour Festival will return to Iowa City for its fifth installation.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Here Lies Man performs at Gabe’s as part of the Witching Hour Festival on Friday, October 12, 2018. Former member of Afrobeat collective Antibalas, Marcos Garcia released his first project for Here Lies Man in 2017.

Sarah Stortz, Arts Editor

After Halloween ends, Witching Hour will strike on Iowa City’s clock. However, instead of inviting supernatural forces, the city will be filled with creative energy and ideas.

From Friday to Saturday night, the Englert Theatre and Little Village will host its annual Witching Hour Festival, continuing their mission to explore unknown work and discuss the creative process with the local community.

The line-up has a total of 37 events, including comedians, musicians, and visual artists. Vero Rose Smith, one of the programmers for Witching Hour, wanted to implement visual art and interactive media into the line-up this year, such as incorporating videos into dancer Christopher Rasheem-McMillain’s choreography piece.

Lauren Lessing, the director of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, will lead a discussion titled “Challenges, Opportunities, and Planning for the Future at the University of Iowa,” exploring the recent strides and drawbacks of Iowa City’s art community.

Lessing was asked to be a part of the program earlier in the year, leaping at the opportunity once she realized she’ll be working with people who she greatly admires. Previously working at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art before moving to Iowa City, Lessing said she enjoyed seeing how a younger generation has curated the festival.

“It’s been interesting for me as an educator to have watched the way that students have changed over the last 25 years,” she said. “As the millennial generation has kind of come into its own and now is out in the world as professionals, they are breaking down disciplinary barriers in ways that I think are really great.”

Wyatt Dlouhy
Younger performs at Gabe’s as part of the Witching Hour Festival on Friday, October 12, 2018. Younger is an Iowa City art rock band. During the show, they performed songs from their upcoming album “Night Milk”

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Lessing said she’s interested in museums as collaborative spaces, with the work of the museum being depend on the audience’s interest.

“I hope that the really rich, engaging conversations that happen at Witching Hour every year are also happening in the space of the museum,” she said. “If I can begin to pave a road like that, that’s what I would want to do.”

Aside from appearances by Iowa City residents, visiting artists will also be showcasing their work.

Aaron Mader, a producer for the rap group Shredders, will make an appearance with his bandmates at Gabe’s on Saturday.

Before getting involved with the hip-hop project, Mader was in an indie-rock band The Plastic Constellations during the ‘90s, frequently playing gigs in Iowa City.

“I have a huge soft spot for Iowa City, especially for Gabe’s,” he said. “It’s been a sweet ride. We never totally blew up, but it’s been really cool to make this music.”

As opposed to his last band, Shredders has allowed Mader to create faster-paced, up-tempo rap music. Feeling that most hip-hop music is too slow, Mader wanted to create songs where his listeners could freely dance and enjoy the vibes of his sound.

Returning to Gabe’s after several years, Mader said he’s excited to see how the building changed since his last visit, recalling how it used to have rickety stairs covered in ice whenever his band moved their equipment during the winter.

“I anticipate a super-sweaty, dark rager, probably with some drinks involved,” Mader said.

Smith said the festival will be worthwhile for anyone considering attending, helping them further understand the artistic process.

“It’s got something for everybody,” Smith said. “It’s focused on the process rather than specific performances. I think absolutely anybody can benefit from thinking through their work, whatever it may be.”