Skip to main content
School of Arts and Sciences

Spring into Art

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tufts Hosts First Festival of the Arts April 16-19

by Alexandra Erath, A16

Interact with student-created instruments and musical iPad apps (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University)

This spring, faculty and students from departments and programs across campus will come together to host the Spring Festival for the Arts@Tufts. The four-day interdisciplinary festival, to be held April 16-19, celebrates the rich and vibrant arts community at Tufts. Comprising of 24 events, the festival will feature the work of Tufts students, faculty, and alumni, and spans a wide array of disciplines and talents, including a Kiniwe (African drumming and dance) performance, screenings of new films, and a newly-reimagined production of Shakespeare's Richard III. The weekend event will also include gallery exhibitions, faculty roundtables, student research and performance symposiums, and an interactive music engineering exhibit offering hands-on exploration of student-created instruments and musical iPad apps.

The festival is co-sponsored by the Departments of Drama and Dance, Music, and Art History, along with the communications and media studies program and creative writing programs, as well as the Experimental College, the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, The Tufts University Art Gallery, the AS&E Diversity Fund, the Granoff Music Fund and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences.

Scene from Act III of A Doll's House: An Opera
(Peter Secrest) (photo by Melody Ko/Tufts University)

This is the first arts festival of its kind at Tufts, and faculty members are enthusiastic about expanding the reach of the arts at the university. “This event will showcase some of the incredible artists we have on campus,” says Gibson Cima, a lecturer specializing in theatre history and directing. “The quality of the work on this campus is of an extremely high caliber and the arts can enrich the student experience at Tufts."

Professor of Music Joseph Auner, who has worked with the dean's office and department chairs to increase arts awareness at Tufts, had the idea for a collaborative festival. For Auner, it's the interdisciplinary nature of the event that is most exciting. “At Tufts, there are very active arts departments with so much to offer,” he says. “This festival offers an occasion to bring them all together and to forge new bridges and open up new possibilities for scholarship and creative activity.”

Gibson Cima
Drama Lecturer Gibson Cima in the trailer for
Richard III (Jennifer Burton)

Along with the hundreds of students who will be performing in departmental events, the festival includes two special interdisciplinary sessions featuring student research and performances. After a call for submissions this winter, a panel of faculty members selected the student works to be included. One such piece in the performance showcase is senior Grace Oberhofer's adaption of Henrik Ibsen's famous play The Dollhouse into an opera. A music major who began the project while conducting research as a Tufts Summer Scholar, Oberhofer was inspired by the way in which The Dollhouse became a rallying cry for women's rights in the late 19th century, and continued to adapt the play as part of her senior thesis.

Oberhofer explains that her initial idea for the structure of the opera was to “echo Ibsen's striking ending, in which the protagonist, Nora, leaves her husband and children so as to free herself from the ‘doll's life' that she has been living her whole life musically.” “As Nora realizes she must break out of the confines her society has given her, the music that has highlighted this confinement begins to break down,” adds Oberhofer.

Dance events include the Spring Dance
Concert and Student Performance
Showcase (Jodi Hilton/Tufts University)

In the wide-ranging research symposium, senior Natalie Naor will present her study of leather bookbindings from the Middle Ages. Naor is interested in the disconnect between how modern viewers interact with artifacts and how a medieval viewer would have interacted with them. “Today we like things neat, tidy, behind glass cases in museums, or preserved digitally online,” says Naor. “Medieval society was the opposite, being incredibly tactile. Touch and the destruction that came from that were integral to the way they viewed the world.”

The festival will also feature a session introducing the proposed film studies program, with screenings of works by several faculty members, including the Tufts premiere of Professor of Art History Judith Wechsler's film The Passages of Walter Benjamin.

Auner hopes the live streaming of several of the festival's events will expand the visibility of the arts at Tufts. “Tufts students are incredibly talented and they deserve to share their work with the largest audience possible,” he adds, noting that online video will make the event accessible to alumni, parents, and prospective students.

One of the live-streamed events is the drama department's production of Richard III, directed by Cima. For Cima, the production is a perfect example of the sort of interdisciplinary collaboration the festival is meant to encourage. "We've partnered with the music department to bring authentic early music instruments to the play, organically built into the show," explains Cima. The film studies program has also partnered with Cima to produce a trailer for the show. “So Richard III is a microcosm of the major goal of this festival, which is interdisciplinary collaboration,” adds Cima.

Music Poku
Attah Poku, Director of the Kiniwe African
Music Ensemble (Ariel DiOrio)

Renata Celichowska, director of the dance program in the drama and dance department and the primary coordinator of the festival dance programs, is eager to see how this arts festival increases campus awareness of the arts. “We're creating a dialogue,” says Celichowska. “We can create the bridge, we have those tools and flexibility to reach out to those who maybe aren't as exposed to the arts, and the more we can do that, the more it can feed the community as a whole on campus.”

The Spring Festival for the Arts@Tufts, April 16-19, will feature the work of Tufts faculty, students, and alumni, including music, drama, dance, film screenings, and exhibitions, along with roundtables and special presentations. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated. Visit the festival website for a complete listing of events, including live streaming.

The Festival is sponsored by the Departments of Art History, Drama and Dance, Music, Communications and Media Studies, the Experimental College, and Creative Writing, along with the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, The Tufts University Art Gallery, the AS&E Diversity Fund, the Granoff Music Fund and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Made possible by the Toupin-Bollwell Fund.