Community Arts Festival

Kabir Sethi

The arts hold a special place in the AES mission, and this was witnessed at AES’s inaugural Community Arts Festival. Born as a celebration of the arts at AES, the Community Arts Festival consisted of various high school students showcasing their diverse artistic passions in music, theater, dance, and the visual arts. Additionally, all proceeds raised from the festival are to be donated towards Music Basti, an organization that supports the creation of musical opportunities for underprivileged students. Ultimately, nearly 150 attendees were treated to what many described as “an ingenious and immersive artistic experience.”

The origins of the Community Arts Festival stemmed from my innate desire to unite the arts in one spectacular showcase. As a musician, actor, and visual artist, I found many opportunities to express myself artistically through concerts, productions, and exhibitions respectively. However, relatively few opportunities existed to demonstrate these talents in conjunction with one another. At the time, the Tri-M Music Honor Society was preparing to have its first edition of a service concert known as “Nights of Tri-M,” which would consist of various musical performances alongside a fundraiser collected through ticket sales. Recognizing the potential to celebrate the diversity within the arts, I pitched the idea to expand “Nights of Tri-M” to other high school clubs; consequently, the Community Arts Festival was born.

Once the approval had been received, preparation for the festival began in full swing. While some clubs had full-day rehearsals on Saturday, other clubs worked furiously after-school. Regardless, each club was determined to guarantee the festival’s success. This year, I was privileged to serve as the festival curator; as such, it was my responsibility to ensure that the festival went smoothly. This included managing communications, handling logistics, and serving as the emcee. In order to highlight each form of artistic expression, it was decided that the performance order would be randomized. For instance, a dance recital could be followed by a student composition, a theater impromptu scene, or a solo flute performance—the possibilities were endless. After the final rehearsal, and what seemed like months of preparation, each club was ready to showcase their best performance.

As the doors of the theater opened for the festival, attendees paid a visit to the art exhibition sponsored by the National Art Honor Society and artists from the Senior Fine Arts ensemble. According to one artist, “our work is only exhibited if it is classwork; as such, it is difficult for the National Art Honor Society and the Senior Fine Arts ensemble to find space to exhibit our artwork. Any opportunity to do so is greatly appreciated.” After the attendees had taken their seats, the performance component of the festival began. The opening number was a Bollywood dance performed by the Dance Crew, who also went on to perform Hip-hop and Salsa as the festival proceeded. Arguably, the highlights of the event were during the two impromptu scenes sponsored by the Thespian Honor Society, as they elicited many laughs from the audience due to their exorbitant use of slapstick comedy.

Musical performances were also numerous in the festival. For instance, the Music Production Club used the festival as a means of premiering three of their compositions, something that one club member described as “gratifying.” The Flute Choir performed a beautiful rendition of a piece called “Ashokan Farewell,” while the A Cappella Club performed their well known rendition of the Michael Jackson classic “Billie Jean.” Additionally, the Experimental Music Group performed a composition named “Blues on a 3D Frog,” which they performed on 3D Printed Instruments. Finally, the festival concluded with a powerful choral and concert band finales, courtesy of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and various members of the high school community.

As this year’s Community Arts Festival curator, I was humbled by the sheer talent that radiated from each performance, be it in music, dance, theater, or the visual arts. I truly hope that AES makes the Community Arts Festival an annual tradition, and that future curators of the festival expand its horizons to both the middle and elementary schools in order to continue celebrating the arts.