Improved FOTA will return in May thanks to early planning

By Michael Murphy

Although the Festival of the Arts (FOTA) is not due to begin until beginning May 9, organizers have been hard at work since the end of last year’s festival to ensure that this year will be better than ever. In three short weeks, FOTA will canvas campus with a variety of art-related events for the third consecutive year.

Each day will feature events ranging from literary readings, dance performances, theater, live bands, and even a day of hip hop. In addition to performances ranging from the Lollapolivingroom concert series to a glam rock opera, galleries and installations around campus will highlight student art throughout the week.

A mainstay in the sixties and seventies, FOTA showcased student art and performances while using the festival as a forum to discuss the study of liberal arts. In 1969, for example, FOTA culminated in the mini-conference “Scholarship as Expression,” a series of discussions and seminars focused on creative expression in the arts and sciences.

But the spring tradition dwindled over the last twenty years, until it was jumpstarted two years ago.

While this year’s FOTA will last only eight days–last year it was a full two weeks–organizers are hard at work to make the festival more focused.

“The main differences between this year and last year, is that last year we were excited to do anything students wanted compiling any space, with any timeslot, costing any amount of money,” said Maggie Hansen, student director of FOTA. “Although this was successful, some events could have been better attended, and events overlapped. Each day will encourage greater collaboration between artists and events.”

In order to emphasize a curatorial approach, Hansen has arranged events to motivate productive and unconventional overlapping between artists and their work. She said that this year’s festival will highlight collaborations between students interested in different mediums.

“We are really interested in facilitating and coordinating events that collaborate with a number of artists so that these events are new, exciting, and unique–something that hasn’t happened on campus before. Instead of simply spotlighting the arts on campus, we want to spotlight the artist’s community on campus,” Hansen said.

Opportunity for students to interact and create art will be ample.

A life-size Styrofoam and plaster puppet inspired by the starving title character in Kafka’s Hunger Artist will walk campus, and a daily arts and crafts table will give visitors the opportunity to add their creative skills by compiling a final sculpture that will be revealed on the final afternoon of the festival.

Another change in this year’s program is that less emphasis will be placed on outside artists, speakers, and performers coming to campus in favor of increased student and community involvement, according to Nathaniel Prottas, a member of the FOTA planning board.

“All events will be by and for students,” Prottas said. “The only outside presence will be in collaborative workshops with kids, local band performances, and a final panel discussion with Chicago professionals involved in the arts.” The panel will feature Second City producer Kelly Leonard, fashion designer Cat Chow, and WBEZ’s Diantha Parker.

FOTA will open the night of Friday, May 9 with a launch party at the Smart Museum. The museum will be open until 1 p.m. and provide free food and drinks. Among other events planned are a fashion show featuring the work of four student designers bouncing to the beats of DJ Ken Meier. The eclectic eight-day program includes several performances by student a capella, dance, and drama groups and is highlighted by a preview performance of Ibsen’s Ghosts.

Besides presenting traditional art, FOTA activities will also present several unconventional forms of expression, including break dancing, beat boxing, and graffiti demonstrations.

Another event, “Pixel and the Chronic Network,” will give a new twist to opera by presenting a story of time and space travel to the tune of rock ‘n’ roll.

“That’s what’s so unique about our school,” Hansen said. “We’re obsessive and intense and we all have weird and quirky passions. When it becomes the Festival of the Arts all this undulating quirkiness comes out and all is exposed.”