Lehigh University
Lehigh University


ArtsFest links arts, learning and life

The work of internationally known avant-garde Chinese artist Zhang Hongtu will be featured at ArtsFest.

ArtsFest, the week-long premiere event of Lehigh University’s new comprehensive ArtsLehigh program, will kick off on Monday, April 3, and will offer a full slate of programs, exhibits, events and “spontaneous irruptions of weirdness” that its organizers hope will fully engage the Lehigh campus and the South Side community.

Included in the rich roster of events are concerts, a hip-hop extravaganza with students from Kashi Johnson’s theater class; a spoken-word performance by body percussion artist Camille Armstrong, a Butoh performance piece by Donna Schudel, a performance by Josh Bambino of the haunting play Underneath the Lintel, a Rock n’ Roll Gospel by Jason Headrington and the Argonauts, a musical performance by the Lehigh University Orchestra and Professor Paul Chou, a choral piece directed by Lehigh’s Steven Sametz, and a giant puppet parade that will wind through South Side.

All are invited to participate in the parade. Various campus and local bands like the Kef Band, the Summit Band, and Khublai Khan will be playing throughout the week. Various other semi-spontaneous eruptions of art will take place during the week, including performances by Paul Blore of Touchstone Theater and Fluxus Redux. Helping to produce the festival are students in the class “Deep Play II: Doing Myth, Ritual, and Art at Lehigh.”

The centerpiece of the week’s events will be the unveiling of a major installation by internationally known avant-garde Chinese artist, Zhang Hongtu. The world premiere of his work, The Four Seasons: Heaven Below and Earth Above, will take place at 7:15 p.m. Friday, April 7 in Lehigh’s Packer Chapel.

Zhang Hongtu’s large scrolls, which blur the boundaries between east and west by recreating famous Chinese landscape paintings in the style of Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters, will be installed by a group of Lehigh engineering and Design Arts students throughout the week. The official unveiling will take place on the concluding day of the festival.

The Friday evening events will also include a puppet parade up Third Street and into Lehigh’s Packer Memorial Chapel, a concert, the world premiere presentation of Tom Bierowski’s digital monologue titled The Rocket Power’d Cross, the university orchestra performance, and several other peripheral installations.

These events will dovetail with South Side’s First Friday events, and will offer attendees “a rich and spicy menu of artistic, cultural and culinary options,” in keeping with the festival theme of “Eat Art.” The theme underscores the sense that art really is the bread of life, learning and community, its organizers say.

“What will happen throughout this week-long festival will be a blend of the traditional and non-traditional, high and low, in keeping with the concept of what ArtsLehigh is all about: linking arts, learning and life,” says Silagh White, the administrative director of ArtsLehigh. “This festival will begin a grassroots tradition that will celebrate the coming of spring, the rebirth of life, and artistic and creative spirit that lives in all of us. We want people of all ages to realize that the arts really are for everyone.”

Adds Norman Girardot, Distinguished Professor of religion studies and faculty director of ArtsLehigh: “These events will be many spontaneous grassroots irruptions of weirdness throughout the week. They’ll be many and varied and all will be keeping with our common need to bring the campus and community together in a way that affirms the idea that diversity—defined as respecting and celebrating our unique differences and spirits—is the real art of life.”

Both White and Girardot stress that a goal of ArtsFest is to draw in both students and community members in an organic process that engages them on a more personal level.

“It’s about breaking down barriers,” says White. “The activities will allow the campus and the community engage in different ways, and it will allow those who come to participate to discover the artist the lives in all of us.”

White includes in the listing of campus/community ArtsFest ventures projects with the Broughal Middle School Marching Band, Red Sun Productions, Hispanic American League of Artists (HALA), Touchstone Theater, the Banana Factory, and several other local artists and business people.

“And all of these events, while entertaining, are still grounded in true academic and artistic excellence,” White says. “These are amazing experiences that students are having with planning, organizing, directing, participating and, in some cases, performing. And it provides them with a great opportunity to engage with the community, and for the community to participate in this creative resurgence here at Lehigh.”

The key, Girardot says, is making arts accessible and life-affirming.

“Yes, ArtsFest is intended to be fun, and to invoke joy in the spirit of spring renewal,” he says. “But ArtsFest clearly has an educational dimension to it. The arts are not peripheral to life, but an essential part of what it means to be educated in the 21st century—indeed, what it means to be human.”

Below is an overview of the chronology of the week’s events. These events will be accompanied by “Random Fluxus” events throughout the week that will include a showing of short films by the South Side Film Institute, a Marriage Protection Apocalypse, and I-Pod events. A full schedule is available online.

Monday April 3
The opening ritual in Packer Chapel at 6 p.m will followed by Rock n’ Roll Gospel by Jason and the Argonauts.” Immediately following that will be a performance by Post Junction, a funk band that was the 2006 winner of the university’s “Battle of the Bands.”

Tuesday, April 4
Events begin at 4 p.m. in Packer Chapel with a freestyle staging by students in Kashi Johnson’s hip hop theatre class. Off-Broadway artist Camille Armstrong will perform Me, myself, and I…Won’t Stop, at 6 p.m. The acoustic rock group, Summit Band, will follow.

Wednesday, April 5
Events begin at 5:30 pm in Packer Chapel with a performance by Donna Schudel of MaryElizabeth. That will be followed by 8 p.m. Kublai Kahn performance and Lehigh Unregistered,” a student television production.

Thursday, April 6
Events begin at 7:00 pm in Packer Chapel with Underneath the Lintel that will be produced and performed by Joshua Bombino, followed by the rock band, Kef.

Friday, April 7
Events begin at 6:30 pm in the Steelworkers Memorial Park on South Side, where a giant puppet parade will lead festival goers to Packer Chapel. At 7 p.m., Steven Sametz will direct the Lehigh University Choir. That performance will be followed by the official unveiling of Zhang Hongtu’s world premiere installation, The Four Seasons: Heaven Below and Earth Above. Paul Chou will direct the Lehigh University Orchestra in a performance of the ethereal Arvo Part. Concluding the week-long festival will be The Rocket Power’d Cross by Tom Bierowski and Company.

For more information, please call (610) 758-5774 or go online.

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Thursday, March 30, 2006

share this story: