Downtown Block Party changed, Summer of the Arts programming cancelled due to COVID-19

The summer schedule of Iowa City events will be changed for the summer as organizations try to keep events alive while still adhering to social distancing measures.


Katie Goodale

Emmy Knutsson reaches for bubbles at the silent disco during Block Party in downtown Iowa City on June 22, 2019. Several blocks of Iowa City were reserved for games, performances and vendors.

Rachel Schilke, News Reporter

Summer in Iowa City is going to look a little different this year. 

Both the Iowa City Summer of Arts and the Iowa City Downtown District announced event changes this week to keep the community safe amid the spread of COVID-19. 

The Downtown District is breaking up the normally massive Downtown Block Party, which attracted 42,000 people in 2019. Instead of a one-day event that was scheduled for June 27, the district said in a Wednesday release that multiple, smaller-scale events will be spread out over the length of the summer. 

“While a gathering of this size is not a safe option this year, we envision multiple, tailored events, with more open space, occurring throughout the summer,” the release stated. “In fact, that’s the approach to all of our events this summer — smaller-scale events that connect the community and our members.” 

According to the release, most of the district’s events remain on the docket. 

“These are difficult times but we are fortunate to live in a community that values its downtown,” the release stated. “We can’t wait to have the community back again – to eat on the patios, shop for post-quarantine clothes that fit, and interact with people we haven’t seen in months.”  

RELATED: Iowa City Summer of the Arts’ free movie schedule released 

Summer of the Arts Executive Director Lisa Barnes said that the organization wanted to “flatten the curve” by modifying the programming and cancelling historically high attendance events. 

Among the cancelled Summer of the Arts events are the May Friday Night Concert Series and the Iowa Arts Festival. The Friday Night Concerts, Northside Concert, and Free Movie Series will also see changes. 

The organization began as a small event in 1992 and has been providing free cultural events since 2005, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan. The release said the organization is working on rescheduling these events or hosting events such as music concerts virtually. 

Barnes said the organization was looking at creative ways to incorporate programs scheduled for the months of May and June.

Events scheduled for the end of July are running as planned, including the Soul & Blues Festival on July 31 and Aug. 1. Other events scheduled for the end of July include children’s activities, a fashion show, a black author’s panel sponsored by Prairie Lights Books, and late night entertainment.

Barnes said in the release that the Summer of the Arts wishes to continue the mission of connecting the community through local art and culture, while also being aware of the risks of large gatherings and acting in accordance with Iowa’s public health directives and measures. 

The organization’s website said that artists and participants would be notified of any changes as it continues to reassess the schedule of events. Barnes said that the organization was dedicated to rescheduling the events later in the summer, rather than cancelling them permanently. 

“Our community is what makes these events truly special experiences,” Barnes said in the release. “We are still trying to be optimistic.”

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