As the college tightens its belt and tries to remain frugal in these odd economic times, cutbacks are being seen throughout campus-and even at this year’s Manifest.
Due to budgeting issues, Manifest, Columbia’s annual end-of-the-year festival, will see some big changes this year. The Grant Park concert has been canceled, but both student organizers and administration have guaranteed that Manifest will be bigger than ever, despite missing a headlining performer. Organizers are planning to double the size of Industry Night and allow for even more departmental involvement.
Mark Kelly, vice president of Student Affairs, said due to the strained financial times, sponsorship money was not as readily available as it has been in the past and cuts to Manifest had to be made.
“We’re skipping the main concert this year,” said Jennifer Friedrich, festival and events coordinator. “Our sponsorship was not as high as we hoped, and it is just not financially possible.”
Kelly said the main Manifest budget is about $270,000 and funded by student activities fees. He said the budget for the festival is very transparent and is voted on by a Student Advisory Board. The rest of the festival is funded through sponsorship money, usually totaling around $100,000.
Live music entertainment will still be provided all day during Manifest. In response to the cancellation of the main concert, organizers have decided to extend stage hours on the Wabash Avenue stage where student bands perform. More than 100 bands have submitted demos for 15 coveted spots on stage from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“At first, it was alarming to hear the concert was canceled because of these economic times,” said Ayisha Jaffer, president of the Student Programming Board. “But it’s actually going to make the festival more about Columbia and give more exposure to students.”
A big name performer will not be gracing the stage, but another famous face might be attending the festivities.
Legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury will be receiving an honorary degree from Columbia during graduation this year, and Manifest organizers are hoping to involve him in Spectacle Fortuna, the Manifest parade that travels through the South Loop.
Friedrich said staff at Columbia’s library have been working with Bradbury’s camp to coordinate events when Bradbury’s biographer revealed he has always dreamed of attending a masquerade ball with the characters from his books.
Friedrich and Spectacle Fortuna organizers are planning to build a rickshaw filled with re-creations of Bradbury’s characters to lead the parade.
“We are really excited that this is something we can do for him during Spectacle Fortuna,” Friedrich said.
Friedrich also helps coordinate the Spectacle Room, a studio space where students create costumes and props for Spectacle Fortuna. Student volunteers and a class devoted to building Spectacle Fortuna props use the space throughout the year to create projects for different campus organizations.
Bradbury’s participation as Grand Marshall of Spectacle Fortuna will depend on his health and physical capability at the time of Manifest. The writer is 88 years old.
“I think this will be a great homecoming for him,” Kelly said of the Waukegan, Ill., native.
The Manifest budget also caught a break thanks to the Student Government Association. This year SGA agreed to purchase Manifest T-shirts provided free to students with money from the group’s budget.
“We had talked with SGA about the possibility of them buying the T-shirts. We discussed if it would be mutually beneficial and decided it was,” said Kari Sommers, assistant dean of Student Life. “We are really grateful that SGA is helping out.”
SGA president Jessica Valerio said the group was more than happy to help with funding for Manifest.
Kelly said Industry Night, an event that started last year, where industry professionals visit campus to see student work and meet prospective employees, will be twice the size of last year’s.
“Seniors need to be working in the Portfolio Center for Industry Night,” Kelly said. “There are going to be hundreds of professionals on our campus and students should be ready to network.”
Kelly also said almost every department at Columbia will be participating in Manifest this year. Departments will have stations set up throughout campus like Fashion Nation, Writer’s Room, Dance Salon and Photo Station, where seniors from each department can showcase their work.
“I think we are going to have a great Manifest this year,” Jaffer said. “It’s going to be more student-focused and more creative.”
Kelly stressed Manifest will still be Manifest without a headlining act.
“The Manifest Festival is really important to Columbia,” Kelly said. “It seeps into the pores of the college, and you can see that across campus every spring.”
A Manifest kick-off meeting will be held on Feb. 23 at noon at the Conaway Center in the 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. All students are welcomed to attend.