Manifest 2012 ‘pedal-powered’

By Heather Scroering

In a few weeks, the main topic of conversation is likely to shift from prioritization, with its many listening forums and layers of recommendations, to the college’s largest and most attractive event of the year, Manifest.

This year’s celebration, pushed forward one week to May 4 because of the NATO summit, will see more than 75 showcases, a pedal-powered amusement park and countless other exhibitions featuring the work of more than 2,000 graduating students in the streets of the South Loop and inside Columbia’s campus buildings.

“Find me a better [college festival in the country],” said Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs. “[Manifest] goes back to our mission, the ‘body of work’ educational strategy, the role it plays in the growth of our students and how it comes to life in Manifest.”

Different this year is the kickoff of the festival. Rather than diving into the showcases, the Great Convergence, where the Columbia community gathers to celebrate graduating students and the college’s values through dramatic dance, musical and theatrical performances, will begin at noon at 9th Street and Wabash Avenue, which will be closed to traffic.

“We have all of these issues, problems, challenges at Columbia, but all hands on deck for the Great Convergence because we are a special place,” Kelly said. “We need to celebrate our specialness since we struggle with issues. Everyone needs to be at the Great Convergence.”

To ensure the festival’s typical carnivalesque nature, Manifest will feature a bicycle-inspired interactive exhibit called the Pedal-Powered Amusement Park, with custom designed bicycles.

According to Aldo Guzman, director of Student Engagement, a bicycle called the “cranky bike” was designed by Redmoon Theater, a nonprofit company created by alumnus Frank Maugeri, adjunct faculty member in the Film & Video Department, and will unwind a 50-foot canvas painted by students when peddled.

Guzman said students are welcome to contact him at by April 13 if they are interested in painting the canvas.

According to Kari Sommers, assistant dean of Student Life, said interdisciplinary book and paper arts graduate students will create a papermaker’s garden, a spectacle of plants used to make handmade paper, in the parking lot of Buddy Guy’s Legends, 700 S. Wabash Ave.

The festival will also feature bicycle-inspired instruments, a pedal-powered smoothie blender and puppet bikes, according to the Pedal-Powered Amusement Park recommendations made by the Events Production Management class.

Approximately 20 classes are working on Manifest and more than 600 students, such as those in student organizations, have had a hand in the production of the festival, Sommers said. She said this figure does not include seniors.

“Regardless of whether it’s in or out of the classroom, the thing that is most exciting about Manifest is the student work,” Sommers said. “I am not aware of any college around the country whose students produce the high quality, remarkable, creative, innovative work that our students produce. The talent is almost overwhelming.”

Musical entertainment will include student performances and two guest performers, Allen Stone and Kids These Days, Kelly said.

Wabash Avenue will be transformed into the Wabash Arts Corridors with art installations lining the streets, Kelly added.

According to him, the cost of Manifest is covered by the student activity fee and sponsorship from major donors like Dick Blick Art Materials and Coca-Cola. No tuition dollars go toward the festival, Kelly said.

Though thriving in its 11th year with an expected turnout of 30,000 people, the urban arts street festival was not always well-received by the college, according to him.

“Eleven years ago, [Manifest] was like three or four showcases, one stage and a lot of the college looking at this as ‘What the heck is this thing, and why do we have it?’” Kelly said.

He said the college was initially more focused on its individual departments rather than the campus as a whole, but it has since embraced the community aspect and fashioned the “body of work” concept into its curriculum.

Kelly added that the two ultimate goals of the festival are to connect students’ body of work that they are expected to complete during their time at the college with an audience of students, faculty, staff, parents and others and to bring the Columbia community together.

“Every student has to go to Manifest,” Kelly said. “If I only know the Dance Department, I don’t know Columbia, and I’m not going to understand what’s possible at Columbia because as all of these fields converge in the digital world, we need to help students make connections between all the disciplines.”

Manifest is a free event open to the public. Additional information will be available at closer to the event date.