Artfest Unveils Northwestern’s Hidden Artists

When one thinks of Northwestern, numbers usually come to mind – whether it’s Northwestern’s low acceptance rate, its ranking amongst the other Big 10 schools in sports, or its lofty spot in the U.S. Colleges News & World Report.

Each of these numbers highlights the atmosphere of achievement that can preoccupy students. The pressures of finding a great internship, applying for the best clubs, and building up resumes often can eat up time students have for their favorite hobbies, which often involve diverse creative activities.

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To give students an outlet to say “yes” to their inner artist or performer, Helicon and the Residential College Board (RCB) recently launched a new collaboration that took advantage of the newest residential venue on campus. They conceived Artfest as a way for students to share their love for literary and visual arts in a non-competitive environment.

Held on Feb. 15 in the Willard Hall Engagement Center, Artfest offered students an occasion to showcase their pieces in front of neighbors in an evaluation-free zone as friends cheered them on while munching on appropriately sophisticated hors d’oeuvres and desserts ranging from bacon-wrapped dates to luscious red velvet cupcakes.

Jolie Boulos, a sophomore in SESP and the president of the Public Affairs Residential College at North Mid-Quads (PARC), decided to stop by and appreciate the artwork produced by other Northwestern students. Yet, while Boulos was able admire the artwork presented at the event, she said, “I think a lot of people don’t really know what Helicon is.”

So . . . what exactly is Helicon?

Helicon Literary & Arts Magazine is the oldest literary & arts magazine and, probably, the oldest creative outlet for Northwestern students on our campus,” explained Will Engellenner, editor-in-chief of the magazine. First published in the spring of 1979 and created as the “sort of brainchild of a bunch of students in Chapin,” the longtime home of the Humanities Residential College, Helicon now publishes two issues per year – one in the winter and one in the spring. The former is a print issue distributed across campus that includes a collection mostly of prose, poetry, and 2D art, while the spring issue publishes more multimedia art on Helicon’s website.

“Every year, whenever we do a magazine launch like the one coming up this March and the one that will be coming up in the spring, we traditionally hold an open mic at those events, but this is the first time we’ve collaborated with RCB on this type of event and I think we’re eager to do something soon again in the future because I feel like this event was a really big success,” said Engellenner.

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Artfest was put together by Joey Salvo, RCB’s president, with support from Nancy Anderson, RCB’s adviser and Associate Director of Residential Academic Initiatives. The new multifunction room in the Willard Engagement Center was a lively and welcoming environment with an art house vibe thanks to the integrated stage lighting and branded backdrop that gave the lobby the feel of a red carpet. Students enjoyed refreshments while admiring the spoken word and visual appeals of the night. The student presenters took turns speaking before the audience as the selected art pieces were beautifully displayed in the background.

As they bravely shared their personal creations, the student speakers appreciated the audience’s engagement – and their applause. They embraced the recognition of their hard work in a setting that was entirely supportive and celebratory.

Engellenner emphasized that “it’s important [to participate in these open mic events] because a lot of Northwestern students are interested in the humanities in prose, poetry and the arts, but I feel like if you aren’t studying those things, there’s not necessarily a lot of outlets for people to sort of express them and have sort of a venue to show off their talents.”

Not everything is a competition. Sometimes, it’s about passion and, in this case, love. Love for the literary and the arts in a school so obsessed with numbers. Love for the friends who come out to support you. Love for the work you obsessed so much over and love for the confidence that has grown within you. Competition is unnecessary when there is a perfect venue for creativity and support.

Be sure to check out Helicon’s most recent issue, which launched on March 8th.

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