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'Unboxing creation'

Posted 9:24 a.m. Friday, March 29, 2024

2024 marks the 10-year anniversary of ArtsFest, UWL's annual celebration of the visual and performing arts.

Celebrating the past, present and future of UWL's ArtsFest

It’s a special year for UWL’s ArtsFest, an annual celebration of the visual and performing arts, as 2024 marks the 10-year anniversary of the festival. 

The theme of ArtsFest 2024 is “Unboxing creation: anticipation and discovery.” The event will run April 25 through April 28 at multiple venues on UWL’s campus. 

“The process of ‘unboxing,’ in art as well as in commerce, is performative,” explains Pete Rydberg, director of the School of Visual & Performing Arts. “Anticipation and discovery are key elements of the unboxing experience for ‘artistic products.’” 

ArtsFest was started in 2014 under the name “Creative Imperatives” before the festival was rebranded in 2022. 

“The festival was an idea from the then-dean of CLS, now known as CASSH, to shine a spotlight on the work being done in art, music, theatre and communication studies,” says Joe Anderson, professor and former chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance. 

Once the Communication Studies Department phased out its involvement, Anderson says, the festival was renamed to more accurately reflect what attendees can expect to experience. 

Joe Anderson teaching at ArtsFest in 2018.

“Participants can expect incredible performances and presentations from both guest artists and UWL Visual & Performing Arts programs and ensembles,” Rydberg says. “The festival offers an opportunity to present unique and novel artistic experiences, which are often difficult to incorporate into ‘regular programming.’” 

Anderson has experienced the festival since its start, as he’s been a UWL faculty member for 33 years. 

“I think the year we were able to bring (actor) Dule Hill to campus was definitely a highlight,” Anderson says. “It was right after his show ‘Psych’ had ended and right before he went on to do ‘Ballers,’Suits,’ and of course, now is doing ‘The Wonder Years.’ Our guests have always amazed me, and I always wished more people from the community could attend.” 

This year, events scheduled during the week are geared toward students, and events scheduled on the weekend target the wider community.

Pete Rydberg, director of the School of Visual & Performing Arts.

“Thursday and Friday feature a student art exhibition opening, masterclasses, workshops and open studios, while the weekend dates lean heavily into concerts and performances,” Rydberg says. “ArtsFest programming is free and open to the public with the sole exception of Sarah Ruhl’s play “Orlando,” performing daily during the festival, which is a ticketed production.” 

For those who have attended ArtsFest, this will be a noticeable change in the calendar events' structure. 

“We are increasing the number of days the festival runs and are curating a non-stop series of presentations, concerts, performances and other special events,” Rydberg says. “Patrons will be able to experience the festival in its entirety, or piecemeal as suits their schedule. However folks choose to celebrate with us, there will be something for everyone’s taste and interest!”

Students at ArtsFest 2023 attending the AIDS Memorial Quilt exhibition.

Looking forward, Rydberg plans to continue the tradition of ArtsFest, preserving space and time for the campus community to honor, celebrate and advocate for the arts’ position at the heart of UWL. 

“We engage with the arts because they bring us joy, they challenge us, they create shared experiences and foster community,” Rydberg says. “We dedicate these four days of ArtsFest to expressing the vital role that the visual and performing arts play in our private lives and our public cultures.” 


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