Akwi Nji joins local artists for third annual Ekphrasis

By NICOLE HASEK nhasek@iowainformation.com

Local poets, songwriters and artists will showcase their work at the third annual Ekphrasis, “Responding to Art with Art,” on Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. at the History Boy Theater with special guest Akwi Nji sharing short stories.

Nji specializes in visual and spoken art and has worked with Emmy-award winning composers, according to a press release. In 2016 she was named an Iowa Arts Council Artist Fellow for her poetry. She produced and curated an alternative arts show, Threshold Gallery’s In Living Color, with 14 Black artists from Iowa and raised almost $10,000 for those artists.

Easels will be lined up from the entrance down the hall of the theater to display the visual art, set up by Jed Magee and Roger Aegerter, Ekphrasis chairs for the Tower View Team.

Before Aegerter informed Magee of the term “Ekphrasis”—visual art that is described through literary art—Magee attended an event in LaCrosse, Wisconsin where original poetry and music were paired with each painting, sculpture and photograph. This idea was brought back to the Tower View Team after seeing LaCrosse’s success. Magee recalls seeing a filled room with over 100 people interested in art and waiting to hear the literary pairings.

“[Ekphrasis] is anticipated, people look forward to this, to emphasize the arts in the community and get people involved,” Magee said. 

Magee said there were around 80 attendees last year, and he only expects the event to grow.

Aegerter invites artists to participate in Ekphrasis six months early every year so they have enough time to create a new piece for the event, which most artists do. He tries to represent a variety of visual art mediums to showcase many art styles. Half of the artists have presented at Ekphrasis before and half are newcomers.

“We try to include new people, new writers and new artists,” Magee said. “So far we’ve been fairly successful.”

The artistic talent practiced at Greene County High School will be on display at Ekphrasis, as the youngest artist is a 16-year-old student. The oldest artist is nearly 80, creating almost a 70-year age range of artists.

Magee is in charge of finding poets and writers, who are given six weeks to create something to go along with the visual art piece. This year, two visual art pieces will be accompanied by songs—one performed by Chris Elliot—and the rest will be paired with poems.

Ekphrasis is an open-ended art event, so the artists can create whatever they want instead of fitting a set theme.

“We’ve talked about a theme, we decided it really narrows it down,” Aegerter said. 

Food, drinks and snacks will be provided by History Boy Theater owner Robby Petersen. Ekphrasis is expected to last two hours and is free to the public.

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