New First Thursdays festival puts the focus on IU’s arts and humanities, food and fun

Post by Amanda N. Marino and Karen Land of the IU Newsroom: 

At IU Bloomington, Thursday will be a day of firsts.

It’s the first day of September. It’s also the first time Indiana University’s Arts Plaza will be the center of a sweeping, interactive festival celebrating the arts and humanities.

Welcome to First Thursdays.

The inaugural event is concentrated from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1, with a few events that precede and follow those hours. First Thursdays festivities will recur Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 before resuming March 2.

First Thursdays map2Ed Comentale, the associate vice provost for arts and humanities, describes the new public festival as “free-wheeling and dynamic.”

With a mix of live music, dance performances, art, crafts, readings, short talks, activities and giveaways, students and community members can sample some of what makes IU such a creative and culturally rich environment. The festival also is free.

There will be choices for every taste. And, with the help of chef David Tallent and other food vendors, there will also be tasty choices.

For early birds, The Herman B Wells Library will host a high-tech, interactive exhibit to familiarize people with art around campus. Starting at 4 p.m. the IQ-Wall in the Scholars’ Commons (East Tower) will display “Visualizing Art on Campus” at an impressive scale.

Here is a sample of what else to expect — and to explore — at the plaza, the Eskenazi Museum of Art, IU Cinema, Lilly Library, Grunwald Gallery and beyond:

Main stage

Performances and activities are planned in all directions from Showalter Fountain. On the main stage, award-winning poet Adrian Matejka will deliver a high-energy invocation at 5 p.m. A variety of musical acts will follow:

  • 5:15 p.m. — Liberation Music Collective
  • 6 p.m. — African American Choral Ensemble
  • 6:30 p.m. — Brenda’s Friend
  • 7 p.m. — Michael Spiro & Descarga Calle Tres!

Amy Oelsner and IU alum Erin Tobey perform together as Brenda’s Friend.

They met three years ago through mutual musical friends and felt it was the right time to start a collaboration of their own. “We just both really liked each other’s music and wanted to be friends and hang out,” Oelsner said.

Brenda's Friend

Amy Oelsner, left, and Erin Tobey. Photo by Anna Powell Teeter Studio

We’ve been told we are louder than we look, Tobey said.

She said both women had introspective solo music, but Oelsner’s was more founded in folk while Tobey’s was rock-based. They shared inspirations like Riot Grrrl and other feminist rock bands. “There’s a lot of that spirit in what we do,” Tobey said.

Oelsner encourages students to come to First Thursdays and sees the event as an introduction to the Bloomington music scene.

“The event seems really diverse musically,” Tobey said.

All in good taste

Guests can partake in free Indiana heirloom popcorn topped with brown butter and sea salt. Meals and other snacks will be available for purchase with I-Bucks, cash or credit cards.

At the Eskenazi Museum of Art, pizza by the slice will be $3. At other locations, Residential Programs and Services will offer cinnamon crisps ($1) and their popular quesadillas ($3). Traditions Catering will offer fruit kabobs ($1), street tacos ($2, or 3 for $5) and elote (roasted sweet corn with cotija cheese, $1). Drinks will be available for $1.

Chef David Tallent will also present live cooking demonstrations during the event.

Join in the fun

Beyond soaking in the scenery and the entertainment, people can become spirited participants in many activities. There are opportunities to join in a scavenger hunt, play games, make crafts, curl up with a book or relax with some coloring. Or, people can have something created just for them.

The IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance has built three Peanuts-style booths, mimicking the design of Lucy’s advice station. As they walk around the Arts Plaza, visitors can approach the booths and receive a poem, a joke or a philosophical statement.

Culture tent

Inside the culture tent on the plaza, the Wylie House Museum will invite people to try old-fashioned games, toys and candy. Visitors also can learn more about the seed library program, which focuses on preserving and cataloging heirloom seeds.

Viki Graber

Viki Graber will make baskets.

The Mathers Museum of World Cultures will bring some of Indiana’s finest craftspeople to the tent with “Indiana Folk Arts: 200 Years of Tradition and Innovation,” a special traveling exhibition. The folk artists include basket maker Viki Graber, decoy carver John Bundy, blacksmith John Bennett and Greg Adams, who makes willow furniture.

“Throughout the fall, First Thursdays gives our campus a chance to meet these remarkable artists, watch them make cool things, and to discuss their work with them directly,” said Jason Baird Jackson, director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

This month’s sponsor of the culture tent is IU’s Gay, Lesbian Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) Student Support Services Office.

A touch of magic

Inside the Lilly Library, Anne Delgado of the English Department will curate a special one-night exhibit, “Magic and the Supernatural,” featuring manuscripts and textbooks on all things magic, creepy and macabre. While there, people can have buttons made with images from the Lilly’s vast collection.

The Lilly Library also will host the ArcSlam poetry slam at 7:30 p.m.

A new spin on art

The Grunwald Gallery in the Fine Arts Building will be alive with art and music. From 5 to 7:30 p.m., the powerful exhibition “Framing Beauty” will be open for viewing. Starting at 6 p.m., a live DJ from WIUX will fill the gallery with sound.

The Movement Cooperative (MoCo) at IU performs a traditional rain dance before the reveal of a Rainworks, a type of rain-activated artwork, during the CultureFest After Party on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016, at the Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University.

The Movement Cooperative at IU performs a rain dance before the first peek at the world’s largest Rainworks. Photo by James Brosher

The Eskenazi Museum of Art will extend its hours from 5 to 8 p.m. The atrium of the museum will be filled with live music and art-making opportunities, including weaving stars for the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival’s “One Million Stars to End Violence” project.

“The event is designed for serious and casual art fans, people who want to dive into the world of art and people who just want to hang out,” said Abe Morris, the museum’s manager of public relations and marketing. “There will be something for everyone.”

Starting at 5:15 p.m., five curators will lead “Spotlights” progressive tours, which offer insights on the show’s hidden treasures from the museum collection. Also planned is “Take Ten,” an activity where 10 people take 10 minutes to discuss a work of art in the galleries.

At 6 p.m., tours end and the dancing will begin. Epiphany Dance Collective will host a West African Dance party. An Aikido martial arts demonstration will take place at 6:30 p.m. At 7 p.m., IU dance students will perform a contemporary rain dance and again reveal the new Rainworks installed near the Light Totem.

Virtual road trip at IU Cinema

At 6:30 p.m., IU Cinema will host a rare screening of director Rick Prelinger’s “No More Road Trips?” The unique assemblage of more than 600 home movies reveals hidden histories of the U.S. landscape and speak to the importance of the journey rather than the destination. Prelinger will narrate the images and participate in a question-and-answer session following his film.

“‘No More Road Trips?’ is not something you can discover easily,” said IU Cinema director Jon Vickers. “It has only been presented a handful of times around the world, in venues such as South by Southwest, San Francisco International Film Festival, International Film Festival Rotterdam, New York Film Festival, National Film and Sound Archive in Australia and Los Angeles Filmforum.”

After all

When First Thursdays clears out of the Arts Plaza, a special opening reception for “Siyazama: Traditional Arts, Education and AIDS in South Africa” will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Mathers Museum, 416 N. Indiana Ave.

Siyazama exhibition

An opening reception for “Siyazama” runs 7 to 9 p.m at the Mathers Museum. Photo by Pearl Yee Wong, Michigan State University Museum

The new traveling exhibit, which looks at how folk arts are used to share information about AIDS, is sponsored by the School of Public Health-Bloomington and Themester 2016.

Betty Dlamini, a singer, actress and writer who teaches IsiZulu at IU will perform an original composition created for the opening, Jackson said. Food also will be available.

The First Thursdays festival is a production of the IU Arts and Humanities Council and is sponsored by the offices of the Provost and Vice Provost for Research.

“First Thursdays will put the richness of the arts and humanities at IU on display in one spot, with wonderful food, music, and activities,” Jackson said. “In a brief amount of time, visitors will surely find much that they will enjoy and a lot to follow up on later. It is going to be a revelation to people to see just how exciting and diverse the arts and humanities are at IU.”

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