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image: Campus NewsThe arts for art's sake
>> The Festival of the Arts makes a campus comeback.
The campus is just exploding with creative energy," says Herman Sinaiko, AB' 47, PhD'61, professor in humanities and the College, "and FOTA is really about going public with that explosion." Sinaiko is the unofficial faculty adviser to the Festival of the Arts (FOTA), and his excitement is almost tangible as he discusses recent movements to increase the visibility of student art on the quads.

IMAGE:  Daryl Osuch, AB'02, works on process, four 33" x 33" panels.

Daryl Osuch, AB'02, works on process, four 33" x 33" panels.

Begun in 1963 the annual student-organized celebration continued until the late 1970s and the death of social-science professor Meyer Gerhardt, its faculty sponsor. FOTA was revived last spring as a three-day event and this year has been expanded to two weeks. The event, which ran May 12-26, began with guest lectures and master classes, including a seminar on classical Arabic calligraphy, taught by professional calligrapher Nihad Dukhan, and a lecture by performance artist, author, and sex activist Annie Sprinkle.

Art showed up in unlikely places, as spaces from Cobb Hall to Crerar Library exhibited photographs, paintings, and even graffiti art. At the Apartment, a rock opera by Ethan Sellers, AB'96, was produced by University Theater (UT), and the Whiskey Hollow Blue Grass Band, a Chicago folk group, played on the quads as part of a lunch concert series. The festival culminated with a Doc Films screening of Haunting Pierrot's Ghost, a feature-length film written and directed by Nima Bassiri, AB'01, and presented by Fire Escape Productions and UT.

Bassiri's silent film about mime was shot and produced on campus. As one might expect from a U of C artist, Bassiri discusses his work in intellectual terms: "A lot of the film is funny but not outwardly funny. The mimes are always performative in their world. Marx talks about life as a performance-the Hegelian tradition is that all great things in history happen twice, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce. This idea of performativity and mimesis is an innate aspect of life."

This year's edition of FOTA was funded in large part by a grant from the University's new Arts Planning Council. The Council's support echoes Sinaiko's sentiment about the role of the administration, which, he says, is to "recognize the energy of the students, make a serious University commitment, then get out of the way" and let students run the festival. This year nearly 1,000 student artists participated in FOTA, and organizers estimate that thousands of people attended the exhibits and performances.

Indeed, it would have been hard not to see at least one FOTA exhibit in May, whether it was the photo exhibit on the Regenstein lobby floor, the drum circle on the quads, or the Hip Hop Show in the Reynolds Club. "We were trying to reach everyone," explains FOTA director Maggie Hansen, a third-year, "and since the Regenstein was our main gallery, I think we came fairly close."
-S.A.Z.



 


  JUNE 2002

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