The Return of the Bates Arts Festival

Fiona Cohen, Assistant Features Editor

The Bates Arts Festival returned to Olin arts Center on Feb. 7 after a two-year hiatus. Up until two years ago, Bates had hosted an annual art crawl in order to show student work. The current goal of the festival is to exhibit what is happening at Olin Arts Center in new and creative ways.

The festival was open to the Bates and Lewiston communities. Upon entering the building, visitors found students presenting their creative works. These works included acapella and spoken word performances, video presentations, plus photography and art open studios. Everyone was encouraged to wander through Olin and observe the exhibitions and performances of their choice.

The Bates Arts Festival team aimed to be open in terms of what types of art would be displayed during the event. As a result, there was a wide range of works presented. There were very few restrictions on who could present. Students of all grades applied, and applicants were not required to be fine or performing arts majors.

In Olin Concert Hall, the night was kicked off by the Robinson Players, who presented the opening act of their latest musical, Spelling Bee. The entire musical comedy was performed numerous times in Gannet Theatre throughout the weekend.

There was also a performance by Crosstones, Bates’ oldest acapella group, who sang a wide variety of songs, including Walk the Moon’s Shut up and Dance as well as Sia’s Elastic Heart. Spectators also enjoyed a hip-hop dance performance by 2BEATS, which had initially been choreographed and performed at Bates’ Sangai Asia Night. This list only begins to cover the works put on by Bates students.

Meanwhile, downstairs there were numerous visual art seminars and exhibitions taking place. Some of these included arts and visual culture thesis open studios. Madeline Schapiro ’20, a senior working on her art thesis, commented on the open studios. Per Schapiro, “I think it’s important to have people realize what’s going on in Olin.”

This sentiment reflects the goal of Elizabeth Boyle, Bates’ Museum Education Fellow, who played a large role in organizing the festival. While the entire festival was student-run, Boyle aided in the recruitment of student groups and in publicizing the event to the local community.

Boyle described the process of preparing for the event: “It was particularly difficult this year because a lot of it had to do with getting the word out about the event. When you have an event that goes on annually, people know that it is coming up.” As the event had been on hiatus, one of the challenges of organizing was getting Bates students to submit their work.

Once student coordinators were hired in the middle of Fall 2019, the work began. Olivia Demerath ’23, Olivia Dimond ’22, Sanika Shah ’22, and Kush Sharma ’23 all served as the student coordinators of the event. Getting students to submit was difficult, and the arts festival team looked for many ways to promote the event. The team accepted submissions and reached out to different student arts groups to gain participants. They also got creative in terms of how to make the festival interactive. At the arts festival, there were here were numerous demonstrations and workshops such as Learn to Juggle (presented by Circus Club) or a “Poetry off the Page” Workshop by Khadeeja Qureshi ’23. This allowed visitors to get involved with what they were viewing.

Marketing and scheduling were also tasks that the team took on. Every detail of the festival was planned with care. Boyle noted the efforts that went into this, saying, “We tried to make it immersive in the sense that there was a lot of things going on at the same time, which also was really difficult when trying to schedule it.”

One of the goals of the team was to introduce the community to Olin Arts Center, making it a place for students to know what is happening on campus regarding the arts. Boyle commented on the overall success of the festival, saying, “I think that the Bates Arts Festival is a great way to bring people all together to see what their friends have been working on or to show a different side of the student culture.”