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