Final First Thursday Festival to include art, politics, beauty


Veronica Piurek, left, paints with chocolate at the Eskenazi Museum of Art during the First Thursday Festival in October. The chocolate painting activity will return for the November festival, in conjunction with the Vik Muniz exhibition. Courtesy Photo

First Thursdays have offered the art and cultural hubs of IU’s campus the opportunity to participate in special programs throughout the semester, often after traditional hours.

The final First Thursday Festival of the semester, presented by Arts & Humanities at IU, will take place starting at 5 p.m. Thursday on the Fine Arts Plaza.

November’s event is slated to include a 40-member preview of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” a Silent Disco hosted by the Music Industry Networking Club, a campus ghost story session by The Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology and much more courtesy of venues such as the Eskenazi Museum of Art and the Mathers Museum of World Cultures.

Laura Scheper, manager of special programs and events at the Eskenazi, said it has been exciting to see the event expand so much over the course of the semester.

“It’s been rewarding just to see it blossom and grow and to see the way that it’s drawing in so many more people to experience arts in general across IU,” Scheper said. “It’s also been well executed. Just talking to people I meet out in the community, they tell me they experienced various elements of art and tried new things.”

The Eskenazi Museum of Art’s variety of programming this month will include collaboration with the Graphic Design Club. Attendees will have the opportunity to design their own election buttons, with assistance from the club, either free form or with the templates provided, Scheper said.

The museum will also have a gallery-side chat on the art of politics, live political poetry read by members of the Writer’s Guild of Bloomington in the gallery and a political poetry mash-up in the atrium, during which participants can try their hand at their own political poems.

Judy Kirk, assistant director of the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, said the highlights of Mathers’ First Thursday Festival involvement has been the opportunity to allow Indiana artisans to share their crafts with attendees.

Each month, the museum has held demonstrations on the plaza, some of which were interactive, Kirk said. This month, the artisans will demonstrate making musical instruments, such as guitars or other distinct string instruments, and allow participants to try their hand at crafting these.

“In October, we had limestone carvers who were demonstrating different techniques,” Kirk said. “One of them was sort of giving people a chance to try their hand at limestone carving, which is an important tradition within our community. We’re built on limestone carving tradition.”

Along with these demonstrations, Mathers offers an after-hours film screening each First Thursday. This month’s film is “Miss Navajo,” presented in conjunction with Themester: Beauty and following one woman’s experience in the Miss Navajo cultural pageant.

“It’s a pageant that centers around tradition and Navajo values — it is focusing on more than female beauty,” Kirk said. “The theme of Themester this year is beauty, and this is another way of thinking of beauty, the beauty of tradition, the beauty of one’s culture and cultural values.”

First Thursdays have allowed for a variety of groups to share the stage and show students and community members how much exists within the arts and humanities.

“It’s been a very positive thing — we’ve been down there with Wylie, Grunwald and the Art Museum and of course the performing groups,” Kirk said. “Everyone coming together in one place is rejuvenating, a great celebration of the enormous variety of arts and cultural offerings on this campus.”

Ed Comentale, associate vice provost for the arts and humanities, said some of the highlights of this inaugural semester have ranged from watching students observing a potter at the wheel to asking big questions at the philosophy booth.

“Then there’s just watching the crowd — those are the moments that really keep us going,” Comentale said. “I remember watching a high school student taping the performance by Brenda’s Friend with her phone and then a couple of kids picking out buttons at the Library booth. To me, those are the really inspirational moments.”

Comentale said this event has established a great precedent for collaboration between these groups on campus and will continue to be a tradition after this year as well.

“It’s the first time we’ve seen all of the arts and culture organizations working together to create a stronger and deeper sense of community,” Comentale said. “It draws students, professors and staff embers from all different backgrounds, as well as neighbors and families and other community groups from town.”

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