Action in Art: Reed Arts Week 2019

Symbolizing where we are, where we come from, and where we want to go, Reed Arts Week has come and gone. The festival, which was held October 20 through November 3, showcased the diversity of art in our community and the impact that it can have through the theme of “OUR REALITY?” 

The title of the festival began as simply “REALITY?”, which stood for Revised, Experiential, Accessible, Lived, Intentional, and Y?; the question mark noted the potential for change. “REALITY?,” which represented the experience that the directors wanted to achieve, was later prefaced with “OUR,” which was added by the directors to emphasize their interest in the political nature of art and the potential that it has to catalyze action. Art, therefore, has the power to inspire movements, and that power served as a central vision for the festival. 

Even though the title of the festival was oriented toward the political impact of art, the artists who participated interpreted the theme in their own way. Victoria Xiao, Sophia Raccuia, and Sherry Chiang created an installation that “focuses on the ways in which body dysmorphia manifests in the mind, further distancing us from our sense of self and surroundings.” The three artists began their piece with a huge blank canvas each starting from different sides of the canvas and working from there, noticing how their shadows looked on the paper and using those silhouettes as the basis for the ghostly figures on the canvas. The artists mentioned that “the whole experience of collaboration was so cool,” as they had never created anything in this way before. 

Another artist, Owga Li, was up every day at sunrise and sunset, weaving a web of rope between three trees in the great lawn. He then hung bells, chimes, and other instruments from the web to create a space that was interactive and musical elements that manifested both visually and audibly. “This is my playground. I’m here, I play this game,” he noted, continuing to throw branches tied to rope across his creation. “I like the space. I kind of personalized this space…it’s hard to abandon.” Owga reflected on how personal his installation had become, even though the piece was to also be shared with the public. Passerbys frequently stopping by to observe him working or to ring the bells hanging from the trees. 

From visual and performance art to interactive pieces and workshops, the art exhibited throughout the week was just as diverse as the artists. Ruby Carmel, one of the artistic directors of the event explained that “all the directors had somewhat different areas of focus…but we all strongly believed in supporting POC artists and wanting to make the festival as open as possible to everybody.” In addition, Carmel noted that as a director, she loved being able to recognize artists’ work and skill and ask them to participate. “I am not only able to say ‘I like your work’, I am also able to say ‘I want to display your work and pay you for it’, which is a wonderful position to be in.” Most of who she was contacting were people the directors didn’t know, but she’s excited to have been involved in communicating with a variety of artists. “I feel that RAW has definitely given me the tools to reach out to artists in a productive, supportive way.” 

“Too often I feel like Reed talks about having different types of art,” Carmel added, when asked about the importance of RAW, “but the broader Reed community either doesn’t know about it or doesn’t have access to it.” Reed Arts Week serves as a way to represent the unrepresented. It brings to light the creativity and skill of artists who may not always be recognized, and it recognizes how their hard work could catalyze action in the community.

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