New FACES at Arts First

by Minji Kim

Every Tuesday and Thursday, seven freshmen transform the rather inconspicuous Holworthy basement into a bustling hub of artistic creativity. These dedicated young artists are preparing to present an explosive pan-arts production for Arts First: the first ever Freshmen Arts Collaborative Experience Showcase (FACES), which will take place in Ticknor Lounge on April 29, from 8 to 10 pm. Conceived by Rory Michelle Sullivan and Lindsay Grant from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, FACES gives freshmen who have not yet had a chance to plug into the campus arts scene the opportunity to work on an extensive art project."Some didn’t even know about the Freshman Arts Program (FAP), which shows that there are still freshmen who didn’t get a chance to be a part of FAP or other arts organizations on campus," says Rory. "And because the freshmen are more settled by the second semester, and it’s a semester-long project, it becomes more like an actual production."I had the privilege of seeing the team in action by dropping by one of the rehearsals, this time in Lowell's dance studio. The freshmen artists were working on a music video for a song that Anna O. and Molly Yang had put together—Anna wrote the poem that serves as the lyrics, while Molly, a pianist, wrote the music. In their neon outfits and playfully matched tights, the performers for the video seemed—as sappy as it may sound—much like a family. While the participants often corrected and directed one another as they rehearsed, they did so with plenty of laughter, jokes, sheer enjoyment of one another’s company and respect for individual talent. Knowing each other so well both personally and professionally contributes to a solid, cohesive production."This program deals with such a small group that it gets us to know each other and forces an environment where we can interact and have our different skills interact," says Nico Maffey, who is trained in gymnastics. "We all have different backgrounds, and when they mesh together, the product is more interesting because it mixes all the different flavors."However, this project does more than throw the talents of artistic freshmen into a melting pot of spectacle and pizazz. Because the application explicitly states that the project will consist of a significant time commitment, the FACES team is essentially a self-selected group of freshmen who actually want to be there to create. Needless to say, the semester-long experience has brought the enthusiastic freshmen into a deep friendship with one another through their intensive collaboration. Simply put, as Anna says, "We do a lot of bonding.""I now know six other people I never would have met otherwise, outside of my own personal bubble," says Molly.Before the group got to combine their talents and work on actual projects, they did a few workshops that fostered their friendship and team spirit."We were told to [do things like] ‘draw something important in your life using symbols.’ The workshops were more about community building than ‘artsy things,’" Karen Kim says, as she applies eye shadow on Shirley Zhou."We got to know each other on a deeper level than just friends," Shirley adds. "We teased out things like what each other’s insecurities are…and that’s something you wouldn’t really talk about with your friends."The students play off of this close bond in order to work together and mold the production into whatever shape and direction they want. This year's FACES, for example, will be a hybrid of performance, exhibition and even audience interaction. Because of the team’s small size, the freshmen are thus able to assert their independence and individual creativity, while also being part of a larger, comprehensive production."I love it! All these years following instructions, now I get to choose!" Nico exclaims as he discusses the choreography with Julia Leitner."They get personally invested and have a bigger chunk of the project they’re in charge of," says Rory. "They really own it. It’s their baby." [http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649]