On a Mission: A Local Community Festival Marks 13 Years of Music, Art, and Activism

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Roxane Amber
“Mission Creek gives us big opportunities in a smaller city,” says Sarah Nelson (BA ’17).

Jessica Hopper
Jessica Hopper

Continuing to thrive on Iowa City’s vibrant art and culture scene, the Mission Creek festival celebrated its 13th year this past spring. The six-day artistic experience brings together emerging and veteran artists, storytellers, and performers to downtown Iowa City. Together, they share their gifts with the goal of experiencing moments of shared humanity.

Sarah Nelson (BA ’17,) who currently works for the UNESCO City of Literature, says: “Mission Creek gives us big opportunities in a smaller city. We have big names come through and we get to experience all of these musical, cultural, and literary events. It really adds to the cultural vibrancy of our city.”

Roxanne Gay
Roxanne Gay

UI students and community members have come to look forward to Mission Creek year after year, not just for the music but for the opportunities to expand learning and discuss current events. On April 4, the festival welcomed nationally acclaimed authors and cultural critics Roxane Gay, Amber Tamblyn, and Jessica Hopper to the Englert stage to discuss ranging topics from their personal artistic successes to the broader cultural conversation around harassment in the entertainment industry.

Gay, author of the New York Times best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist and newly minted Guggenheim fellow, commented specifically on the #MeToo movement and emotional trauma during the audience Q&A. She recalled how her mother once asked her if she was done writing about rape, to which she responded: “Never.”

“The cultural norm is that grieving is finite, but there is no distinct beginning or ending to dealing with trauma,” Gay said. “Honor your suffering.”

Amber Tamblyn
Amber Tamblyn 

Mission Creek’s dedication to supporting the arts runs deeper than simply producing a festival. All proceeds from the Gay+Tamblyn+Hopper conversation benefited Girls Rock! Iowa City, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering creativity and self-esteem in young girls and trans-identified youth through musical instruction and expression. Most other events are totally free to the public.

The Englert Theatre, a 105-year-old historic performing arts organization, presents and produces Mission Creek.