Public Space One to present first virtual 24-hour Art-A-Thon

Public Space One will hold its first virtual telethon-style Art-A-Thon this weekend to support the local art community. The festival will showcase a range of talent from artists with ties to Iowa City, from dancers and painters to multi-media creators.


Contributed by John Engelbrecht

Parker Jones, Arts Reporter

For its inaugural “Art-A-Thon,” Public Space One is gearing up to entertain audiences with a wide range of artistic talent — for 24 hours straight.

With an army of 40 different artists ready to entertain and share their work, the event will take place from noon Sept. 19 to noon Sept. 20, in order to celebrate and raise funds for local artists. Audiences can expect showcases of all sorts of talent, from dancers and painters to multi-media creators, all live streamed from Public Space One’s website.

The event will be primarily virtual, but will hold a few in-person performances as well, said John Engelbrect, director of Public Space One. Engelbrecht described the Art-A-Thon as an opportunity to showcase artists while “prioritizing artwork that isn’t product-based,” as well as the event’s celestial theme.

“…When the pandemic forced us to rethink our grand opening on the summer solstice, we knew we wanted to continue the theme of ‘a planetary day,’” he said. “We also wanted to raise more funds for participating artists than our art auction did, so the ‘equinox’ became not only a promotional theme, but a philosophical one where we’d split all proceedings 50/50 between artists and our organization.”

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“It will showcase a massive effort of many artists with ties to Iowa City who continue to make inspirational work despite the pandemic,” he said. “Hopefully, it will inspire viewers and the community to see art workers as essential for a vibrant and rich society.”

Participating visual artist Rob Stephens, known by his alias “Good Kid Rob,” said art events such as these can help artists gain a better understanding of their own art.

“I usually get more from my work hearing how people interpret it or try to decipher it,” Stephens said.  “Usually my work is a coded message to myself, and audience reactions really make them more legible to me. One of the main things that the pandemic has deprived artists from having is an audience to react to and engage with.”

Stephens creates art with what he describes as a “diverse range of materials,” including woodcuts, paintings, and comics. The artist has recently been creating digital collages about the “shadow life” that he said he believes many people are living in under quarantine. During the Art-A-Thon he will be giving a few talks about his upcoming art series, “Plague Town 2020,” which also focuses on everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with countless other events and activities this year, art shows have had to adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because art is a crucial part of Iowa City’s community, however, Stephens said Public Space One in particular has been particularly resilient in making sure art is being properly recognized during these unsure times.

Will Yager performs on his bass. (John Engelbrecht/Public Space One)

Participating visual artist Niq Thomas said that, in addition to having many benefits for local artists, the Art-A-Thon will be particularly useful for showcasing art that might not usually be found in the same setting.

Thomas is an artist with a continuously evolving style, and has made content ranging from abstract painting to collages to sculpture work. The content he prepared for the Art-A-Thon consists of how his creative process changed throughout the year. He also focuses heavily on his experience surrounding the derecho storm last month, after which he collected debris from the storm and used it to create an assemblage.

“There is going to be everything from painting to printmaking to music to dancing and beyond, which would be challenging to present in a single location during a single show, but the virtual format makes that possible,” Thomas said.

In order to continue its artistic mission while maintaining safety standards, Engelbrecht also predicts that Public Space One will have a combination of in-person and virtual events in the future.

“In-person events will be outside or very limited in numbers for the near-to-mid future,” he said. “Virtual events allow us to really present the national scope of our art team and those are fun and ‘of the times.’”

Engelbrecht went on to describe the adaptability of Public Space One and how they will continue to support Iowa City’s artistic community.

“In general, we will take whatever the world throws at us and push it through our [artistic] filter,” Engelbrecht said. “We welcome any to come make something weird with us.”