Thursday, April 25, 2013

On June 9, Loyce Arthur (Theatre Arts, CLAS) will realize her dream of bringing Carnaval to Iowa City.  The Iowa City Carnaval Parade will occur Sunday, June 9, in conjunction with the annual Iowa City Arts Festival. Carnaval is a strong, vibrant tradition in several island nations and Latin American countries as well as urban centers around the world, with community members working for a year in advance to translate stories and themes into brightly colored floats and costumes.

Seven Years in the Making

This particular parade has been seven years in the making. Arthur began working on an exhibit of Carnaval costumes in 2006. "I wanted to introduce Iowa to a unique, little-known art form. I intended to have a mass camp or workshop along with the exhibit to involve the community in the event as much as possible, but then the exhibit was postponed because of the flood," explains Arthur who has designed costumes for numerous productions including the U.S. premiere of Peter Pan and Wendy in Philadelphia. "As I talked with more and more people about engaging the community in the process, the project expanded, with a goal to include as many people as possible and to celebrate Iowa’s growing diversity."

Support of Obermann Working Group

For the past two years, Arthur has been part of the Intergenre Explorations Obermann Working Group, comprised of faculty whose work crosses between scholarly research and presentation. The Working Group has helped Arthur think about how to write about and assess the Carnaval as a public engagement project.


Iowa Carnaval costume workshop

This year, the group is choosing to use half of its Obermann funding to support Arthur's project, the bulk of which will pay for the composition by Western Iowa musician Joseph Mitchell of a special calypso for the parade.  Arthur is excited about the ways that the calypso will extend the narrative possibilities: "In the same way that the Carnaval Project itself focuses on transforming Iowa stories into works of art for the parade, the calypso will transform Iowa's treasures, great and small, as well as its legends and iconography, into artful lyrics for the calypso.  The lyrics will be available for everyone participating in the parade and those watching to come together in an exciting interactive way to experience community through the action of singing together."  

There are many opportunities for community involvement. As the date for Carnaval approaches, weekly costume construction workshops continue each Saturday in North Hall from 1:00 to 4:0 pm. Organizers are in need of supplies—everything from white t-shirts to colorful fabric.