The month of March brought Newman University’s 22nd annual arts and literary festival, “Alegría: Ode to Joy,” which was slightly rebranded this year in an effort to deliberately include art beyond literature.
Susan Crane-Laracuente, Ph.D., said the rebranding was a great move forward.
“It’s often been a collaboration with English and other departments anyway, so we thought, let’s maybe make that more explicit now,” said Crane. The change was a simple word addition to the title: arts.
In previous years, the festival would have a specific theme, such as “Harry Potter,” “Beowulf” and “Inferno,” to name a few. This year, however, the group decided on a more generic and uplifting theme.
“Particularly with this year, people are struggling with a range of things,” explained Crane. “So we really wanted to go with a theme that was more explicitly celebratory. The arts can get us to think about things that are tricky and troubling and disturbing, but art is also about expressing delight — verbally, visually or through movement and enactment on stage.”
Thus, the title “Alegría: Ode to Joy” was chosen to represent a celebration of the cheer and triumphs shown in art — and every event at the festival expressed this to some degree.
The events ranged from student panels in which undergraduates wrestled with a variety of texts, authors and the stories behind them to events led by faculty and alumni, including workshops by Bryan Dietrich, Ph.D., and a “Lunch and Listen” event.
Crane spoke fondly of the Lunch and Listen as a clear display of alumni involvement, explaining that it was a great way to showcase the work of previous students to current or prospective students as well as their fellow alumni.
“We featured the bookstore, Crow & Co., which was founded by Larry and Sara Crow, as well as Cat Connolly, who works there as the café manager. They were our book sellers this year, and sold popular titles that are loosely linked to the concept of joy, or “alegría” in Spanish. They also gave the Lunch and Listen talk.”
Aside from the panels, talks and workshops, there were a couple of theatrical performances attached to the festival.
One was pre-recorded by some students who read a one act play in its original Spanish, “El Delantal Blanco” by Sergio Vodanovic. The other, directed by Director of Theatre Mark Mannette, was Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” performed live in the De Mattias performance hall.
Representing the visual arts, Director of Steckline Art Gallery Shannon Johnston facilitated a Steckline Gallery opening and artist Kevin Kelly led an interactive event.
Regina Klenjoski and Jennie Linthorst also collaborated on an interactive event, which combined creative writing with artistic movement.
To supplement her appreciation toward all of those who made the festival possible, Crane wanted to emphasize the importance of these events, and art and literature as a whole.
“How do we communicate mostly? Through words, and the intonations of our voices and the movement of our bodies in space and time. How are these things important? How could they not be. We just take them for granted.”