Walking through this year’s annual Bates Arts Crawl, I was struck by the immense creativity and talent of our community. For the afternoon of Friday, January 29th, campus became a brimming mecca of culture. With a diverse array of offerings including readings from creative writing majors in Chase Hall, student artwork displayed in Olin and performances from student bands, Arts Crawl was a powerful display of the passion of Bates students.
I began my Arts Crawl experience with a performance by the rock band, Hired Help, in Chase Hall. Comprised of seniors Rush Milam, Teddy Rube, Ben Cuba, Evan Molinari and Sam Mark, Hired Help performs original music in the spirit of American classic rock. In their song, “Bring Out the Night,” keyboardist Teddy Rube sings of suburban streets and youthful yearnings with a dry poetic delivery reminiscent of Bob Dylan. Guitarist Rush Milam’s ragged and soulful guitar brings a bluesy sensibility to the band’s music. Molinari, Cuba and Mark give the band’s songs a sense of movement and energy that makes their music inherently danceable.
After Hired Help’s performance, I went to the Olin Arts Center to look at the photography, painting and pottery of Bates students. I was struck by the work of Isabelle Unger ’16, who as part of her senior thesis took a collection of black and white photos of people’s spines. She told me that she had an interest in posture and the uniqueness of each person’s body. The photographs, she said, ended up looking more abstract than she ever expected. Often times it is unclear what the photos were of, with many looking as though they were landscapes. This ambiguity added to the intrigue and power of her work.
Jesse Jacobson ’16, also a photographer, showed me a series of pictures she took of suburban houses in her hometown of Needham, Massachusetts. She was inspired by a sense of nostalgia and desire for a feeling of home, and she explored how color and light can impact the way houses look to the eye. Her work had a melancholy feel to it that could remind any viewer of their own hometown and childhood.
Also taking inspiration from the suburbs was the work of the Advanced Painting class. Their assignment was to bring in an image of a suburban house, project that image and then trace it onto blocks of wood. A razor was used to provide additional details to the tracings. After the tracing process was complete, the students painted over the tracings as they wanted. The differences between the works of different students were striking, with some presenting a uniform traditional image of a house and others choosing to make it more abstract and vague.
After viewing the beautiful visual work of my peers, I went to go see the Bates Jazz Combo perform. Fronted by vocalist Alisa Amador ’18, the group played laid-back lounge tunes with a soulful flair. I was especially impressed by the group’s drummer, Oliver Farnum ’19. He played with skill and restraint, knowing exactly when he needed to be powerful and when he needed to be soft. The guitar work of Molinari was equally enthralling: clean and well-toned, it was everything one would want out of jazz guitar. Finishing off with the upbeat “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” the combo played classic jazz like true masters.
I finished off my Bates Arts Crawl experience with the Sangai Asia performance at Schaeffer Theater. The show had many stellar moments, including the opening performance by the Bates Gamelan Orchestra. Native to Indonesia, gamelan utilizes a variety of brass percussion instruments that are often played with mallets. Throughout their rendition of “Lancaran Jaranan,” the orchestra’s instruments interlocked beautifully, almost like cogs in a machine, to create wonderful soundscapes.
Another highlight of Sangai Asia was the performance of the modern Korean Hip Hop hit, “Your Scent,” by Soohee Choi ’17 and seniors Sohee Ki and Khidong Kim. Kim rapped with speed and playfulness as he strutted up in down the stage with mesmerizing swagger. Choi and Ki provided beautiful vocals during the song’s chorus. It was exciting to get a taste of a genre often not heard in the U.S.
The night came to a close with a show-stopping performance by the Bates Bollywood dancers. With dancers smiling ear to ear in beautiful colorful costumes while moving and clapping in unison, I felt it encapsulated what Arts Crawl is all about: a community coming together to celebrate creativity, self-expression and pure fun.