story Kavya Gopal

ARTS FEST '15 leaves its mark

Students contribute their footprints to the Leaving tree. (Bozy Lu)


As Yale-NUS College prepares to move to its new campus next semester, the memories made in its temporary home—Residential College 4 (RC4)—will not be easily forgotten. To commemorate the physical space that the College has inhabited for the last two years, a group of seven students, headed by Director Jevon Chandra ’17, coordinated and organized Arts Fest ’15 which consisted of over thirty events and programs.

Arts Fest ’15 was held from March 11–31 in locations around RC4. The festival was structured around the theme ‘Before We Leave’. Various student groups and activities were involved in the festival, such as The Spring Sing organized by the Yale-NUS Singers’ Guild, CANVAS organized by the Visual Arts Society, and a circus workshop held by Circus In Motion, a contemporary circus arts company.

Michelle Koh ’17, a member of the planning committee, said, “We ensured there was a wide variety of events to cater to all interests. Even if [students] did not enjoy the performances, they could go for a workshop or talk instead.”

The festival was almost entirely student-run, with the Educational Resources and Technology department supporting students with resources and consultancy. Gurjeet Singh, Senior Manager of Arts, said in an email interview, “That is exactly our intention, that the student community starts projects and we come in to build upon and support.” He said that the festival had been “extremely well executed” and that “there was a great deal of [student] ownership”.

Aside from performances and workshops, community art was also a large focus of the festival. According to Koh, these projects were intended to include everyone in the community, and to celebrate RC4 before leaving for the new campus. One example was the creation of a yarn tree over the course of the festival. Members of the Yale-NUS community were invited to pen their memories of RC4 on memory leaves that were later pinned on the branches of the yarn tree.

Another highlight of the festival was the experiential performance Stairwell to Heaven, which converted the stairwell in RC4 into a hub of performances by musicians, actors, and visual artists. Directed by Anne Caroline Franklin ’17, the performance featured artists across a wide range of mediums and invited the audience to climb the stairs to experience it. Tamara Burgos ’18 found the performance “extremely creative”. “Making people perform in such a venue made me rethink the area and the artistic potential it carried with it,” she said.

Yet the festival was not always smooth-sailing. The passing of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, founding Prime Minister of Singapore, on March 23 led to the postponement of several events such as Off the Page by the Songwriters Society during the week of mourning. Mr. Singh, however, thought that the loss of Mr. Lee, along with the tour at Bukit Brown “extended [the festival’s] theme towards thinking about the legacy each of us leave behind, just as we recognized Mr. Lee’s”.

Koh added that the hiatus could have been communicated more effectively as some people mistakenly thought that the festival had been stopped completely. “There was an information breakdown,” she said.

The festival came to an end on March 31 with Leaving—a collaborative art experience where students, faculty, and administration painted a large canvassed tree, using their footprints as leaves to symbolize the journey to the new campus. Mr. Singh added, “I am fiercely confident, noticing the ownership, talent, and community I’ve seen thus far, [that] we will leave a legacy indeed.”

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