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Arts Festival offers fun time for all

Smatterings of rain, wind, sun and clouds gave festival goers a variety of weather at the 2019 River Campus Arts Festival at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus on Saturday, June 15.

An estimated crowd of 4,000 visitors enjoyed free performances, activities and displays inside and outside at the Dobbins Center, the Seminary Building, Glenn Convocation Center and Cultural Art Center at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus.

At the bottom of the hill under a festive red and white tent, the Suzuki Strings group performed 13 violin compositions under the direction of their instructor, Naomi Williams. The Suzuki Method, invented by Shinichi Suzuki, is based on the idea that since young children pick up their native language quickly, they also have the ability to become proficient on a musical instrument.

Adjacent to the tent area, a street painting competition was underway at the Avenue of Art outside the River Campus Cultural Arts Center.

In six-foot square sidewalk spaces, three categories of artists: children, students and adults, set out to create masterpieces with a set of 24 colored pastels provided.

Applying chalk to street surfaces dates back to 16th century Italy when traveling artists were brought into the cities to work on huge cathedrals. They found that recreating paintings from the church onto the pavement in coordination of festival dates was another way to make a living. Festival goers would throw coins if they approved of the artist’s work.

Scott Kelly of Cape Girardeau created his chalk design on the spot without looking at a picture. Competing as an adult, Kelly explained that he has always been an artist and had won the chalk competition in the past. He described his vision for the design as, “ants carrying pieces of watermelon with kind of a sunset behind. I’m inventing it as I go along.”

Since the artwork washes away with rain it is important to photograph it. Kelly said, “I’ve been doing this for years. I like it because it’s temporary. I like that aspect of it.”

Using his time wisely while maintaining craftsmanship was Kelly’s goal. “At some point I gotta stop,” he said. Plans to produce more art for the plein air portrait and landscape competitions were on Kelly’s afternoon agenda.

Nearby, Craig Thomas of Cape Girardeau, kneeled on the ground with an image of The Aristocat KIDS, pulled up on his tablet. Fingers individually wrapped in adhesive tape, Thomas set out to work chalk onto the sidewalk and create four portraits of the 9 to 14-year-old performers in The Aristocat KIDS, based on the Disney animated film. The actors performed twice for free at the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall.

Thomas has been creating street paintings for over 20 years in Europe, Canada, and throughout the United States. He creates street painting performances for schools, festivals, workshops, or presentations.

The festival, with many art opportunities offered by the university, enabled community businesses to connect with festival goers as well. Food fit for a celebration, learning for all age groups and some just plain fun were on the agenda all day long.

Among the many musical opportunities, the Southeast Alumni Steel Drum Band, under the direction of Shane Mizicko, entertained music enthusiasts of all ages on the Dobbins Center Front Patio. Of the group of 12 percussionists showcased at the festival, half were alumni, said Mizicko. The steel drum class is offered once a week in the fall and spring semesters. The Southeast Alumni Steel Drum Band has been around for a decade and has performed at elementary schools, the Cape Riverfront Market and Rotary Clubs.

“The instruments are all part of 55-gallon drum barrels. Also called steel pans, they are the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago,” said Mizicko.

Nick Johnston, Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management in the Department of Management in the Donald L. Harrison College of Business and Computing at Southeast Missouri State University, enjoyed the festivities with his family. Stationed on the sidelines while his wife, Mariah and son, Edison, danced to the sounds of steel drums, he listened and watched.

“This is great,” he said. After a dance or two, his son Edison was ready for more bouncing, so they moved on.

For Shakespeare enthusiasts, a special treat was in store. Timothy Mooney, the former founder and editor of “The Script Review” and also the former Artistic Director of Chicago’s Stage Two Theatre performed “A Little Bit o’ Shakespeare,” in the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre. He said, “This show is all of the most fun monologues so adults and students can get it.”

Included in a one-hour show were Shakespearian comedies, sonnets, history plays and problem plays. Examples included “The Comedie of Errors,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Macbeth.” Especially entertaining were the projected lines on the screen he asked the audience to read during “Julius Caesar.” The audience interaction was beyond energetic.

The Disney “Newsies” cast showcased music and dance numbers under the red and white tent, with a performance in its entirety that evening after the festival ended. The cast included local high school students, University students and professional actors.

Ken Stilson, chair of the Dobbins Conservatory of Music said, “The inspiration for this festival for the last seven years has been my wife, Rhonda Weller-Stilson. It was started because of our daughter, Emma. Rhonda wanted to start this for kids. It was something she wanted to start since Emma’s birth. This is one of the summer’s highlights for kids.”

Rhonda Weller-Stilson dean of Southeast’s Earl and Margie Holland College of Arts and Media may have been unaware, but her wish was more than fulfilled as toddlers to senior citizens smiled and strolled throughout River Campus.

Every art form was present. Dance performances ranged from hip-hop to aerial, line dancing, ballet and more. The visual arts activities ranged from hands on activities to pottery wheel demonstrations, a biennial faculty exhibition and displays too numerous to mention. Literature was represented with story times and a writing workshop featuring Dr. James Brubaker and Dr. Dan Crocker.

Winners of the plein air portrait competition were, first place, Helen Towner; second place, Scott Kelly. Winners of the plein air landscape competition were first place, Helen Towner; second place, Scott Kelly.

Chalk art competition winners were, children’s category; first place, Nick Reed, second place, Colton Dodd; third place, Fiona Mueth. Winners in the student category were, first place, Mira Themm; second place, Spencer Phillips; third place, Erin Holly. Winners in the adult category, were, first place, Scott Kelley; second place, Shanda Boren; third place, Bennet Turner.

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