March 31, 2009
UI postgraduate writer is the brains behind the Mission Creek Festival
Search the map of Iowa City all you want; you will not find a Mission Creek anywhere in the area. There's a Clear Creek, a Muddy Creek, a Rapid Creek, a Willow Creek and a Ralston Creek, but no Mission Creek. And yet the Mission Creek Festival (http://missionfreak.com/2009/03/03/mission-creek-festival-iowa-city-april-1st-5th-festival-passes-available/) will take place here April 1-5.
The Mission Creek Festival came to Iowa City in the brain of Andre Perry when he moved from San Francisco to Iowa City in 2005 to attend the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program. San Francisco DOES have a Mission Creek, and the Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival has become an annual, artist-driven fixture for more than a dozen years.
After college Perry selected San Francisco as a place to seek new opportunities and enrich his experiences. "I got into writing in high school, but I was writing fiction then and worked in film quite a bit. I decided it was time to do something different, so I finished my screenplay, put it in a shoebox and tucked it away, and bought a keyboard," Perry said.
He soon became active not only on the music scene in the Bay Area but also on the literary scene -- playing in several bands and writing about music -- and along the way, he became friends with Mission Creek Festival founder and producer Jeff Ray: "He was a musician/artist and we were in the same scene, so one year he asked me if I'd like to help out with the festival."
Perry didn't make a specific decision to get back into writing, but his new writing in San Francisco just developed "organically." "I didn't consciously recognize it, but I was writing nonfiction," he explains. "I was writing a mix of personal essay and journalistic reporting. A friend of mine said, if you are writing essays and nonfiction, you should check graduate schools where you can hang out with other writers. So I looked into Iowa, and got in."
Perry's move to Iowa provided an opportunity for (Jeff) Ray to realize his ambitions to expand the festival. "Jeff knew I was moving here, and he told me his idea for expanding artist-driven festivals as giving artists a reason for being -- to rally around what they are making," Perry said. "We all need reminders from time to time.
"He (Jeff Ray) had the idea that he wanted to spread that ideal to another place, and Iowa City seemed like a natural place. He said, 'Once you get there and figure out the ground, see if you'd like to do that.'"
In Iowa City Perry soon hooked up with other artists who were enthusiastic about the idea, contacted the managers and owners of the venues, and together they made Mission Creek Midwest happen for the first time in 2007.
Unlike the big festivals elsewhere, which secure a large central location to present their artists, the Mission Creek Festival involves many of the existing public and commercial venues in downtown Iowa City, including the Mill, the Yacht Club, Public Space One, the Englert Theatre and the Picador. "There is something really amazing about Iowa City as a walking town," he observes. "There's a real easy navigation and there is so much happening with all the clubs and all the arts next to each other."
Many of the Mission Creek Festival events are free, and audiences can choose to attend specific events or purchase a festival pass that includes admission to every event -- enabling them the wander the downtown area sampling what the festival has to offer.
For more information visit the festival's MySpace presence at http://www.myspace.com/mcmw.
Perry graduated from the Nonfiction Writing Program in May, and he received a postgraduate fellowship that has enabled him to spend the 2008-09 academic year writing, teaching and inspiring literary events at the UI Writers' House.
His essays have appeared in Water~Stone and Alligator Juniper, and he is a staff writer at Cokemachineglow.com and a columnist for Crawdaddy. His 2007 essay "American Gray Space" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
The Nonfiction Writing Program is a graduate program in the English Department of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
For UI arts information and calendar updates visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to http://list.uiowa.edu/archives/acr-news.html and click the link "Join or Leave ACR News," then follow the instructions.
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