After 35 performances and ongoing exhibits over six days, the curtain came down on the inaugural UCF Celebrates the Arts 2015 with high hopes for next year.
“The celebration was designed to showcase the work of the University of Central Florida and its partners — and, boy, did it,” Orlando Sentinel arts writer Matt Palm said in his review of the April 9-15 event. “Can’t wait for next year’s celebration.”
More than 13,600 free, advance-ticket reservations were made to see the various performances, said Jeff Moore, director of the UCF School of Performing Arts and artistic director of the festival, adding that the event exceeded his expectations. Ten of the events were “sold out.”
The festival featured more than 1,000 UCF students and faculty members showcasing studio art, music, theatre, dance, gaming, animation, photography and film at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. All the presentations were put on by the School of Performing Arts and the School of Visual Arts & Design, both in the College of Arts & Humanities. Some of the events included community arts partners and K-12 students.
“When you do something the first time, it feels like you need time to ramp up. But this seemed to hit right out of the box,” Moore said.
This was the first time all the university’s artistic presentations could be experienced in one place.
“There was so much vibrancy,” said Heather Gibson, marketing director for the UCF Theatre Department. “We in the arts have never felt this much hum going on.”
She said the biggest audiences of the festival attended Icarus at the Edge of Time and Shakespeare Swings!, both of which had people waiting in line to grab any of the seats left open by no-shows in the 2,500-capacity theatre.
Icarus was a multimedia performance by the UCF Symphony Orchestra based on a children’s book by Columbia University physicist Brian Greene and narrated by actress Kate Mulgrew from the Star Trek: Voyager TV series. Shakespeare Swings! featured UCF’s Flying Horse Big Band and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater Cabaret Singers.
Moore said he attended every event at the festival and noticed that instead of seeing the same people at each performance, there were different audiences.
“It was meeting everybody on their own turf,” he said. “This was a celebration of the arts, but the arts reach into so many other disciplines. When you walked into the center lobby you were immediately immersed in the arts – and science, mathematics, literature and computers coming together with art.”
Moore advised marking calendars now for next year’s festival when UCF has the arts center reserved April 4-17, 2016. Next year’s festival will run during two weekends and the days between, he said.
He hopes to involve more K-12 students through workshops and performance showcases next year, and create more collaborative partnerships with community arts groups.
“Those were so enjoyable for students and everyone who came,” Moore said.