FOTA makes plans instead of hibernating this winter

By Lila McDowell

Spring quarter may seem far away to class-bound students trudging through the snowy quads, but the planning committee for this year’s Festival of the Arts (FOTA) is already in session. From Friday of seventh week to Friday of eighth week, FOTA artists will smother the usually gray and somber Chicago campus with art of every variety. “FOTA is an organization which exists to support, encourage, promote, showcase, and facilitate the life of the arts at the U of C,” said Hannah Kushnick, one of the festival’s curators. “We want people who don’t think they’re ‘art people’ to walk on campus during that week and just see art everywhere.”

At the first information session, there was talk of huge pieces of highly visible installation art, karaoke on the quads, screenings of student-made silent films, and a poetry slam. There will also be a fashion show at the festival’s launch party.

Luckily for the artists, some of the University’s heavy-hitting organizations are willing to fund attempts to build a chocolate fountain in the lobby of the Reg. Grants, which are based on a proposal system and awarded on a case-by-case basis, come primarily from the Arts Planning Council and the Student Government Finance Committee (SGFC). The grants can be used for everything from basic materials to flyers publicizing an event and refreshments for its audience.

“FOTA’s visibility has varied over the past several years due to several factors such as student participation and finance issues,” Committee Chair Claire Mazur said. “FOTA was alive and well in U of C’s past, particularly in the 1970s, and then sort of disappeared until recent years when some influential alumni and professors put up the money and initiative for its rebirth.”

The committee encourages students to bring their ideas to them at any time. “Just because we’re not funding it doesn’t mean we don’t want to make it part of the FOTA calendar and publicize it,” Kushnick said. “If an arts RSO or an artist with an independent grant wants to show their work, that’s great too.”

An example of a proposed project that will be reborn during 2005’s festival is a staging of Lanford Wilson’s The Family Continues. Second-year Classics concentrator Will Fulton directed the one-act show as part of University Theater’s sixth week workshop showcase in autumn quarter. “We did two performances during the workshop week,” he said. “And as a cast we wanted more opportunities to perform what we had spent so much time on.”

The event will focus especially on the relationship between science and art. The planning committee hopes to devote an entire day to projects that showcase the intersection of the science and art worlds, highlighting the vibrant life of each on University’s campus.

One example is the Sights and Sounds of Science Competition, the annual project of the Chicago Materials Research Center. The competition aims to “take a fresh look at the supposed divide between since and art, to map out creative connections between the two, and explore shared terrain boldly,” according to their website’s description. Collaboration with FOTA will result in a screening of the contest’s winning entries and announcement of prizes to campus. The hope is that this will bring the audiences of a prestigious science competition and an experimental, campus-wide art project together.

There’s still time to propose ideas for this year’s festival. Friday, February 14, is the deadline for students, faculty, staff, and alumni to send in their proposals. The proposal, complete with an itemized budget, can be sent to Artists who do not need funding but who would like to participate can get in touch with the planning committee after the proposal deadline by contacting the curators, Hannah Kushnick and Kristine Khouri.