What Makes a Festival Pop? ArtsFest Behind the Scenes

By Anna Vecellio

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The arts, quite simply, nourish the soul. They sustain, comfort, inspire. There is nothing like that exquisite moment when you first discover the beauty of connecting with others in celebration of larger ideals and shared wisdom

— Gordon Gee

I have a clear and distinct memory of my first introduction to Boston College’s Annual Arts Festival. I was a second semester freshman, still shy and unsure about my place at BC and what I wanted to do. I had begun to hollow out a small niche for myself in the Theatre Department, Assistant Stage Managing for “Avenue Q”. It wasn’t until well into the rehearsal process for the musical that I learned that the show would be featured as part of ArtsFest and benefit from the huge crowds the event draws in every year.

In the weeks leading up to the show, upperclassmen actors and crew began discussing what events they most wanted to attend and lamenting those they would miss as a result of rehearsals and performances. Some discussed their time commitments to events they were taking part in or organizing. Others talked about their part in organizing ArtsFest in general. As a freshman, I couldn’t really comprehend what a huge event I had somehow found myself involved in, or what I would be missing due to “Avenue Q”. That changed on Thursday morning.

Within a single day, the full effect of the festival spread across campus as tents went up and crowds began to gather. Three days straight of a never-ending parade of the arts was overwhelming to say the least. I quickly learned from friends in theatre who were involved, what the Arts Festival really was. Over the course of three days, the Arts Council brings together every manner of arts on campus and invites not only the school but also the entire community surrounding Boston College to participate. Student theatre groups put on shows, English students read their theses, dance groups compete, musicians and bands perform, artists display their work, comedy groups break out the laughs, a different alumni artist is honored and visits campus ever year.

While I didn’t get to see much of the festival because of my own part in the musical, my passing participation was enough to cement the festival as one of the most impressive events of the year for me. It was the kind of weekend that brought together students from all across campus through their extra-curricular activities, friendships, and pure artist interest. Everyone seemed to have one event or another that they want to attend. It was the kind of weekend that seemed to epitomize the college campus feeling. It wasn’t until this year, as a junior, that I became an Arts Council intern and actually got a chance to peer behind the curtain of the festival and seeing the intricate foundation beneath.

No matter what it may seem like, as an intern for the Arts Council, I realized very quickly that the festival doesn’t just appear overnight. The first thing I learned is that the process of creating the festival is a year long affair that transforms from a manageable task most of the year into a complete vortex of panic in April. In the weeks leading up to the festival there is so much going on that the office is literally never empty. Second thing I learned is that a lot of the people involved in the production of the festival are students, including: all the volunteers — of which there are more than a hundred — the festival interns, the stage managers, the production manager, the marketing coordinators, the marketing interns, the volunteer coordinator, and the programming coordinator are all students.

Over the course of the year these students, myself included, a group of graduate students, and employees, worked on the festival and its various wheels and cogs. Just organizing the schedules for all of the ArtsFest events takes the whole year, let alone figuring out who needs to work on each one, what all the events need, how to get them their supplies, which volunteers are needed for each event, and how each event will be marketed. What really strikes me about the festival, however, isn’t just the sheer scale of it or how much work goes into it, but the attitude toward the arts within the Council. The people who come together to create the festival are some of the most passionate about the arts that I’ve seen. At a school like Boston College, where students are saturated by ads for sports, and new academic and dorm buildings seem like the priority, the arts can feel neglected and ignored – whether purposefully or not. Yet, I would wager that ArtsFest is one of the events that brings together the entire student and faculty body the most. That ability to draw the students into the arts speaks to the dedication of the Arts Council, as does my experience with them, that is inspiring.

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Check out the Arts Council website for a full schedule of events at ArtsFest this week, or pick up a brochure at one of our many outlets across campus. ArtsFest runs Thursday through Saturday this week, noon – late.

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