Artistic ambition takes flight

Recipients of Student Council Independent Student Arts Performance Fund create unique projects that represent spectrum of artistic expression on Grounds

Scan a billboard at Newcomb and you'll see flyers promoting everything from a capella to Shakespeare, hip-hop to opera, film to literary magazines. The strength of the arts community on Grounds means students don't have to search long to find a culture fix. But the number of options sometimes leads to numbness: Who really wants to click through 20 arts-related Facebook invitations?

Fortunately, there's a solution to the information overload - the Independent Student Arts Performance Fund Reception, which will take place this Saturday. The reception brings together five very different artists, each pursuing vastly different projects. Fourth-year College student George Scott Hardwig, who has taken dance classes in New York City, will bring his experience to Grounds through a dance showcase and free classes for students. Third-year College student Trenley Anderson's artist's book explores the nature of language and image, and their relation to thought.

Fourth-year Architecture student Arley Arrington translated a sustainability experiment in reducing her carbon footprint into an art project using recycled material.

"ISAPF is an annual fund with the purpose of promoting student involvement and achievement in the arts by funding independent creative work," said Sneha Shah, co-chair of the Student Council Student Arts Committee, which administers the fund.

The committee chose the five recipients - each of whom received a portion of the $1,500 fund - from a diverse pool of applicants who represented nearly all segments of the University arts community. The recipients' projects offer an astonishing cross-section that reveals the hidden vibrancies of the arts culture on Grounds, especially the ways in which the aesthetics of art intersect sociopolitical and cultural concerns.

Fourth-year Architecture student Yamen Hama, for example, dispelled Arab stereotypes through eclectic costume designs that captured the nuances of everyday Arab life, transforming elements such as newspapers, sand and hata scarves into high fashion. Describing his project as "part avant garde fashion show, part sociopolitical message and exhibit, part promotion of cultural awareness and part performance art," Hama reaches beyond the usual boundaries of artistic expression. This is especially evident in his use of his background as an Architecture student, employing "techniques used in the School of Architecture - Laser Cutting plexiglass, woodshop, model making - in making clothes and wearable pieces," he said. "Architecture inspired construction in fashion."

Many contracted independent organizations on Grounds offer opportunities for student involvement in the arts, but ISAPF moves beyond the group-based model, instead promoting individual creativity. "I think my favorite thing about ISAPF is that it isn't limited to art majors," said Sarah Steely, Student Arts Committee co-chair. "It's a funding option for any student at the school who has an artistic passion or stroke of creative genius." And from a strictly practical point of view, ISAPF fills a crucial gap in the University arts world: funding for individual artists to express and carry out their personal visions.

"The ISAPF made it possible for me to further my artistic education by providing me with the funds necessary to explore different media and techniques," said second-year College student David Cook, whose visual arts project examines the nature of the interactions that take place in public transit systems. Cook, who took photographs within the University Transit System, explained, "Funds like ISAPF are critical for any University program that wishes to promote student art in any capacity, given how expensive art supplies are."

Hama agreed. "Without the ISAPF, independent arts projects like mine would severely decrease and new and interesting ways of educating the public and involving the community would cease to exist," he said. "Creative pathways to disbursing media are, in my opinion, some of the best ways in educating people about something they knew little to nothing about previously."

The reception and showcase will take place Saturday, April 30 at 7 p.m., at the Garden at Eunoia, 1500 Jefferson Park Avenue.

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