Mission Creek Festival to bring flood of artistry to Iowa City

From April 6-8, 25 musicians, 12 individuals in the literary community, and a myriad of representatives from literary magazines will flood the Iowa City performing venues.


Gabby Drees

Beach Bunny performs at the Englert Theatre as part of the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City on Friday, March 8, 2022. One more round of musical performances can be seen Saturday at Big Grove Brewery, Trumpet Blossom Cafe, Riverside Theatre, Englert Theatre, and Gabe’s. Literature events can be seen Saturday at FilmScene at The Chauncey, PS1 Close House, Prairie Lights, The Tuesday Agency, and Iowa City Public Library.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Assistant Digital Editor

With the cold Iowa City winters finally turning to spring, the Englert Theatre is inviting musicians from across the country to perform and speak at this year’s Mission Creek Festival.

From April 6-8, 25 musicians, 12 individuals in the literary community, and a myriad of representatives from literary magazines will flood Iowa City’s performance venues, including Trumpet Blossom Cafe, Gabe’s, and the Englert.

Lindsey Jordan — more commonly known as Snail Mail — will perform at Mission Creek on Friday, April 7, at The Englert. The indie-rock musician has grown in popularity over the past few years, and her most popular song, “Pristine,” has over 29 million streams on Spotify.

Michelle Zauner, the lead singer of the alternative pop band Japanese Breakfast who performed in Des Moines over the summer, will also attend Mission Creek. Zauner is this year’s keynote author and will discuss her memoir titled “Crying in H Mart.” The conversation will be moderated by University of Iowa professor Bryn Lovitt.

Full festival passes and individual day passes for Mission Creek are on sale now until the festival. Some events will also be available to the public for free, including a live podcast recording of Lit Hub’s “Thresholds” with Jordan Kisner, singer Ganavya, and Kaveh Akbar at The Tuesday Agency.

Elly Hofmaier works on programming and marketing for Mission Creek and was involved in selecting the musicians visiting the festival. She described the process as a giant Tetris game as she attempted to sort artists into venues based on availability.

“It’s a whole balancing act,” Hofmaier said. “It’s crazy.”

This year is Hofmaier’s second year working on Mission Creek with the rest of the staff. This is also the second year the festival will be held in person after it was canceled to COVID-19 in spring 2020.

Hofmaier said ticket sales have improved this year. Full festival passes are $110, and individual day passes range from $50-$60. The 2022 Mission Creek Festival brought headliners Beach Bunny and Soccer Mommy to Iowa City.

“Ticket sales are going really well, which last year was kind of a struggle coming out of the pandemic,” Hofmaier said. “It’s nice to already have the energy that people have for this festival.”

As the festival draws residents from across Iowa and hosts musicians from across the U.S., Hofmaier said Mission Creek has the unique ability to shift the energy of Iowa City.

“It kind of transforms the entire town and allows you to look at it in a new way,” Hofmaier said. “It really feels like Iowa City turns into New York for two, three days.”

Mission Creek is an independently run nonprofit organization. Hofmaier said the festival’s main goal is to bring the arts to the Iowa City community. With a relatively small team working on the massive weekend-long event, Hofmaier said everyone participating takes on several roles in the planning and promotion process.

RELATED: Snail Mail added to Mission Creek lineup

Hofmaier said the festival is not about promoting the Englert Theatre or any individuals in the community.

“It’s just about the whole collective of people who enjoy arts and people in Iowa City,” Hofmaier said.

UI student Myles Evangelista is performing at Mission Creek under the stage name mars hojilla. Evangelista will perform at the Trumpet Blossom Cafe on April 8.

Evangelista said he draws inspiration for his music from emo and indie folk artists, including Lucy Dacus — who performed in Iowa City last year— as well as Phoebe Bridgers and Ethel Cain.

Evangelista said he was recently inspired by NoSo, who performed at the UI Homecoming Concert last fall. After interviewing NoSo and speaking with them on representation in the music industry, Evangelista said he felt like he had a place in the field.

“I think just seeing them play at homecoming especially, it made me think, ‘Oh, this is something that could be attainable for me as well,’” Evangelista said.

Evangelista also draws from personal experiences growing up queer while going to a Catholic school. He said these religious topics continue to be present in his work, along with happier themes of love and acceptance in other songs.

Along with the musicians coming to Iowa City, Mission Creek has invited several well-known authors to speak throughout the weekend. Shelley Wong is the author of “As She Appears,” which was her debut book in the poetry scene.

Wong’s career did not begin in the world of creative writing. While living in New York, Wong said she worked in medical publishing and briefly pursued fashion design.

Eventually, Wong continued her education at Ohio State University and taught there for several years. She spent her time at Ohio State working on her book, which came out in May 2022.

“I’ve always been interested in images and fragmentation and just the love of language,” Wong said. “It also offers so much more possibility and freedom than other forms of writing.”

In terms of themes, Wong said she tried to deviate from the typical work written about identity. Rather than focusing on the struggles and misery that come with growing up with marginalized identities, Wong said her work speaks to more positive themes.

“I really wanted to speak to the complexities and joys and playfulness and expansiveness of being queer and Asian American,” Wong said.

As a whole, Mission Creek is an event meant to bring people together. The festival melds some of Iowa City’s biggest draws — music and literature — to create a space where enthusiasts can enjoy the arts.

“Iowa City has such a strong music and literature scene locally right now,” Hofmaier said. “I think the artists will come into an energy that’s already vibrating here, and that will add something.”