UCF Celebrates the Arts returned for its ninth year at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to showcase the creativity, innovation and collaboration of students, faculty, and staff. With more events than ever before, the festival had something for everyone — from inclusive concerts, lectures and discussions to interactive visual arts displays and kid-friendly events. The celebration ran from April 2-15 and welcomed more than 9,000 guests to 39 free, discounted and low-cost events and 15 visual art exhibitions displayed on three floors of the performing arts center.

Here are some highlights from the 2023 festival:

Dance students and alumni used the power of movement to convey themes ranging from chaos and grief to technology and celebration at TECH-nique: A Dance Concert. To create an immersive experience, one of the dances employed the CAVE system, a virtual reality environment developed by UCF Professor of Engineering Carolina Cruz-Neira.

UCF theater student Jessica Abels speaks at a podium

Theatre UCF students then performed theatrical readings of letters written during times of war at an event hosted by historian Andrew Carroll. A new documentary, War Unfolding, follows Carroll’s journey around the world to find and preserve these letters. This event, plus two others, was made possible with grants provided by FL Humanities with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

As part of the Inclusive Knights Concert Series, the UCF Concert Band performed music themed around terrific beasts and mythical creatures while music education students served as characters and guides for those of all abilities and needs.

Experts in ethics, visual art and computer science hosted a discussion on artificial intelligence and its impact on the creative process. Following the talk, guests interacted with displays of emerging research on the intersection of art and artificial intelligence.

WUCF hosted a day of events in celebration of their 10th anniversary, including a family-friendly event and a series of talks with PBS celebrities Judy Woodruff, Susanne Simpson and Sonia Manzano. The day ended with Broadway’s Brightest Lights, a recorded performance from the American Pops Orchestra with Megan Hilty, Nikki Renée Daniels, Michael Maliakel and Tommy Sutter (pictured here).

At the character animation and animation/visual effects premieres, audiences enjoyed award-winning short, animated films from students in the School of Visual Arts and Design. Afterward, students and alumni gathered on stage to discuss the process of making the featured short films. The emerging media BFA and MFA programs are nationally ranked No. 4 out of 40 of the top public schools offering animation in the United States.

The audience was Swingin’ and Singin’ with the Flying Horse Big Band under the direction of Pegasus Professor and Director of Jazz Studies Jeff Rupert. American Armenian jazz vocalist Lucy Yeghiazaryan, the Jazz Professors and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon also performed.

Incarcerated individuals participating in the Florida Prison Education Project displayed their artwork exploring slavery and freedom, despair and hope, oppression and the immutability of the human spirit. The Florida Prison Education Project is an interdisciplinary initiative of UCF that seeks to offer a high-quality undergraduate education to people incarcerated in Central Florida.

Some of the best young composers in the country heard their pieces performed by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of maestro Christopher Wilkins as part of the National Young Composers Challenge Composium.

As part of the lobby exhibitions, festival attendees were able to try on costumes designed for Theatre UCF productions and admire fashions from the late arts patron Harriett Lake.


Always a favorite, Creative Clash invited students and alumni to race against the clock and create large-scale artwork themed on their idea of a “creative utopia.”

Theatre UCF alumni reunited in Steinmetz Hall to share tunes from Into the Woods, Little Shop of Horrors, Ragtime and more. The event was hosted by Curb Your Enthusiasm star Cheryl Hines ’90.

Justin Sargent ’08 was unable to attend the alumni showcase in person, so he used the hologram patient simulation tool initiated by the College of Health Professions and Sciences to perform Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’.

Guests of all ages enjoyed UCF Celebrates the Arts. Families gathered in Dr. Phillips Center’s outdoor Seneff Arts Plaza to play games and meet their favorite PBS characters at Play! A WUCF Salute to Fred Rogers and enjoyed the Orlando REP’s show for the very young, The Day I Danced with Dinosaurs.

Themed on faith, hope and love, UCF’s singers, including the UCF Chamber Singers, SoAl and TeBa choruses, University Singers and UCF Community Choir, performed beautifully in the acoustically perfect Steinmetz Hall. Many other ensembles performed throughout the festival, including the UCF Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band, the UCF Symphony Orchestra, the UCF Percussion Ensemble and chamber groups.

High school students performed three new plays exploring mental health and wellness for youth at Mind Matters: New Plays for Teens. This collaborative project between Theatre UCF, the UCF Department of Psychology, Orange County Public Schools and the Orlando REP was developed with support from a 2021 Pabst Steinmetz Arts & Wellness Innovation Award.

Attendees enjoyed artwork from students in the School of Visual Arts and Design and community partners displayed throughout the venue. Guests also interacted with Dr. Hologram, which featured content including messages from the College of Arts and Humanities Dean Jeff Moore, a poem from Orlando Poet Laureate Shawn Welcome ’17, health tips from faculty in the College of Health Professions and Sciences, and artistic breaks from musicians, poets, visual artists, dancers and others.

View more photos from UCF Celebrates the Arts 2023 here.