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A Decade of Artistic Celebration

Reflecting on 10 memorable moments to honor the 10th anniversary of UCF Celebrates the Arts.

In the world-class Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, stages were set for more than 1,000 Knights to dazzle audiences with 24 captivating performances — marking the inaugural UCF Celebrates the Arts in April 2015. The annual festival led by UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities has blossomed ever since, offering an accessible journey into the creative side of UCF’s innovative spirit.

Every spring, the Central Florida community is invited to explore a mosaic of disciplines — from theater to film, and music to studio art — as well as opportunities to be involved in interactive workshops and talks. Behind every experience are talented students and faculty from UCF’s School of Performing Arts and School of Visual Arts and Design, plus other academic units across the university. As this year commemorates a decade of innovation and artistic excellence with UCF Celebrates the Arts, let’s look back on some memorable moments that have made this event a community treasure.

Group of UCF students model in a life-size painting of Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte

1. Tableaux Vivants (Living Art) (2015)

A festival favorite, the Tableaux Vivants (Living Art) is an exhibition of the collaborative work of more than 200 School of Visual Arts and Design students who recreate famous artworks and model them in life-size paintings, like Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Crowd watches UCF musicians perform onstage at UCF Celebrates the Arts

2. The Warped Side of the Universe (2016)

Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer joined forces with astrophysicist Kip Thorne, visual effects artist Paul Franklin, and UCF musicians to create a multimedia performance blending music, science and computer simulations, taking audiences on a journey through warped space and time.

UCF's Flying Big Horse Band drummer beats drum seat as he performs during UCF Celebrates the Arts

3. Flying Horse Big Band (2017)

UCF’s premier jazz ensemble, the Flying Horse Big Band, entertained audiences with a nostalgic performance of tunes from their chart-topping album The Bat Swings!, which features music from iconic superhero movies and TV shows, including the classic Batman series.

Theatre UCF singers and dancers reenact musical theatre work Mass during UCF Celebrates the Arts

4. Mass (2018)

Over 250 performers — including four choirs, the UCF Symphony Orchestra, a marching band, a rock group, and Theatre UCF singers and dancers — gathered onstage to reenact Leonard Bernstein’s Mass. This ambitious tribute to the composer, conductor and educator was named Artistic Highlight of the Year by the Orlando Sentinel.

Emily St. John Mandel sits across from David James Poissant discussing her book during UCF Celebrates the Arts

5. Author Talk with Emily St. John Mandel (2019)

Award-winning author Emily St. John Mandel discussed the audacious and darkly glittering nature of her post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven in a conversation led by UCF Associate Professor of English David James Poissant. The event was supported by a National Endowment for the Arts Big Read grant, which aims to broaden understanding of ourselves and our neighbors through shared reading experiences.

Two women fill in their canvas drawing of a bird with purple marker during UCF Celebrates the Arts' Creative Clash

6. Creative Clash (2021)

Armed with markers, students and alumni from the UCF School of Visual Arts and Design raced against the clock to create emergence-themed artwork in front of spectators. This year’s event was modified and took place outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ballet dancers perform onstage during UCF Celebrates the Arts

7. A Knight of Dance (2021)

Highlighting the incredible talents of student, alumni and faculty choreographers and dancers, this showcase featured 17 original performances across genres such as tap, ballet and jazz.

Shrek emerges from behind a tree in UCF's Shrek: The Musical performance during UCF Celebrates the Arts

8. Shrek the Musical (2022)

After two years of canceled and modified programming due to COVID-19, UCF Celebrates the Arts resumed with Shrek the Musical as its headline performance, bringing beloved characters from the Tony-winning adaptation of the film to the stage in a family-friendly musical adventure.

Student touches button on equipment as he works backstage during UCF Celebrates the Arts

9. Backstage Magic (2023)

Students put in hundreds of hours behind the scenes to bring UCF Celebrates the Arts to life each year. Stage management, and design and technology students often find success after graduation because of the unique experience they gain planning and executing the large-scale event alongside faculty and industry professionals.

UCF's hologram patient simulation device onstage for a performance during UCF Celebrates the Arts

10. Holoportation Technology (2023)

Guests got to experience the creative potential of technology with appearances by community members, artists and healthcare professionals through Holoportation Technology — a hologram patient simulation device in UCF’s College of Health Professions and Sciences Rehabilitation Innovation Center.