May 9, 2003

Smart Museum kickoff party will celebrate FOTA

The University's Festival of the Arts (FOTA) will kick off tonight with a launch party at the Smart Museum of Art, beginning the annual weeklong festival to celebrate arts on campus and showcase the talents of community members.

The festival was first created in 1963 by U of C community members and grew into a highly anticipated event for many years. Scheduled activities traditionally included panel discussions, lectures, and creative workshops.

When the main founder Meyer Gerhardt passed away, the festival was discontinued.

Recently, however, the tradition has been revived through the help of various alumni, students, and faculty.

The kickoff party at the Smart, which will run from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m., will feature the spinning of DJ Ken Meier, a performance art piece by Robin Barcus led by dance instructor Terry Crews, a student fashion show with over thirty models, and a clown performance by Clunk, a clown troupe composed of current and former University students.

Additionally, there will be food from Whole Foods, drinks, student films looping in the foyer, and plenty of free beach balls available for public consumption. Over 300 people are projected to attend.

A tent will be erected in the courtyard between the Cochrane-Woods Art Center and the Smart Museum to accommodate outside activities at the opening party and throughout the week.

"This party should get the week started by giving everyone a taste of what is to come and allowing people associated with the University who are interested in art to meet and mingle," said Mary Trent, a fourth-year in the College and the co-chair of the Smart Museum Activities Committee (SMAC), one of the several groups participating in FOTA.

Those in attendance will also have the opportunity for hands-on fun. SMAC will host a mask-making activity where partygoers can make funky gala masks to wear throughout the night.

Another highlight of the opening party will be the fashion show, featuring student-designed clothes worn by student models.

The anticipation for the annual festival has been building.

"I'm very excited about the opening gala for FOTA because, as a first-year at this school, I immediately noticed that there is a huge lack of arts. In a school that is driven by its economics department and sciences, respectively, there didn't seem, at first, a group of people who respect, fund, and participate in the arts," said Christopher Chitty, a first-year in the College.

The festival will continue Saturday with a glam rock opera concert on the upper level of the 55th Street and Ellis Avenue parking garage. P1xel and the Chronic Network, a student band, is scheduled to perform from 8 until 10 p.m. The performance will tell a cohesive narrative of a robot from the future who secretly yearns to come to our time, expressed through contemplative ballads ("The Anachronist's Lament") and energetic rock anthems ("Rock! Music! Time Machine!").

The concert will be the first complete performance of P1xel's own glam rock opera and will be filmed live for a DVD feature by Fire Escape films, a student-run film group, which will shoot the concert with a crew of 15 students manning 6 cameras. Full costumes and interesting lighting effects will be used to enhance the performance, and the concert is expected to be a unique, if not historical, musical event.

Other FOTA events over the weekend include a fiction-reading session in Bartlett Hall on Friday with University faculty. Among those reading are Richard Stern, Megan Stielstra, William Veeder, and Kenneth Warren. There will also be a writing workshop and a poetry reading on Saturday.

Artistically-inclined students at the U of C feel rewarded by the festival and enjoy the appreciation of art by the community.

"As an artist I feel honored that the school cares enough to throw this fete, and I hope that there will be a good turnout," Chitty said.

Other students feel that the appreciation of art should not be limited to an appreciation week.

"Art needs no occasion, just a passion and a forum," said Bryson Engelen, a fourth-year in the College and a FOTA publicity aid.