Rock the Chalk’s annual showcase of street art returns Friday

An artist works on their artwork on Washington Street at the 2022 edition of MidWest One's Rock the Chalk.

One of downtown Iowa City’s most unique art displays takes to the streets Friday.

MidWestOne Bank’s seventh annual Rock the Chalk event gathers artists of all ages to put their skills on display inside an eight-foot concrete square.

The event started in 2016 to celebrate the opening of the bank’s new location at 500 South Clinton St. as well as the bank’s remodel of the historic building at 102 South Clinton St. Since then, the artist-forward event has established a foothold as a late-August tradition.

“This is such a great opportunity for us to interact with the Iowa City community and do something fun for everybody,” community engagement officer Jenny Olson said.

Eighty artists are registered for this year’s event, and many more are expected to swing downtown and take in their impressive work. Rock the Chalk will also feature a slew of musical performances on a downtown stage.

Washington Street will be closed Friday from MidWestOne’s location at the Clinton Street intersection to Linn Street. Dubuque Street will also be closed off from Washington to Iowa Avenue. T closures will be in effect late into the evening Friday.

Rock the Chalk draws participation from young families and even well-seasoned artists, generating a melting pot of ambitious creators. The free event encourages freedom of creativity and togetherness.

“I think that there are so many people out there who may not consider themselves professional artists but still have a lot of creative energy that they want to share with everyone and with the community,” Olson said. “I think that this gives everyone an opportunity to display whatever they want. We don’t charge the artists to register, we just provide them [with] some pastels free of charge and allow them a space to show off their creativity.”

Chalk art pieces along Washington Street are pictured during the sixth Rock the Chalk event on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

Olson said the event often draws several repeat artists, a further testament to the unique nature of Rock the Chalk.

“People can’t believe that it’s all free,” Olson said. “I think it’s just a really accessible event for everyone in the community and an opportunity for them to bring their whole family out and just enjoy downtown.”

The event will also provide several free activities from 5-8 p.m., including bubble stations, friendship bracelet-making, balloon animals and more.

The bubble activity at the sixth edition of Rock the Chalk on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022.

Alongside the chalk drawings, the event will showcase several local musicians, providing a platform for “rising stars,” Olson said.

The full list of musicians includes:

  • Andrew Hoyt at 2 p.m.
  • Angela Meyer at 3 p.m.
  • 24thankyou at 4 p.m.
  • Good Morning Midnight at 5 p.m.
  • Bella Moss at 6 p.m.
  • TheZeffsterr at 7 p.m.

This lineup boasts styles from rap to alternative, working to highlight prominent community voices. TheZeffsterr is a perfect example. The rapper is the founder of Iowa City-based Critical Money, Incorporated, a music label that has partnered with local artists.

Though no food vendors will be offered Friday, Olson said participants and visitors have made it a point to support local businesses each year, and suspects 2023 will be no different.

Ryan Hansen covers local government and crime for the Press-Citizen. He can be reached at[email protected] or on Twitter @ryanhansen01.

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