UCR Arts Walk embellishes the Bell Tower with scintillating student art

Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER
Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER

The Bell Tower had never been more colorful than it was at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10. There were students with backpacks on, older people, many people with shaved and colored hair and couples walking dogs. It looked like a trail mix blend of people in which no single ingredient outnumbered another; everything was in harmony and tasted best when together.

The sky was a fusion of orange and red like one of the watercolor paintings set up on easels along the tower. A uniform warmth from the near-summer sun embraced all of our bodies while a subtle breeze balanced it with a soothing crispness. This freshness, along with the Backseat Pilots doing sound checks at the music stage and skateboarders in front of them doing tricks, made me feel as if I was at the artistic Venice Beach with comforting warm and cool air refreshing my mind to a blank canvas.

Everywhere we looked, something different was going on but everyone was there for a common purpose: art. They were not only there to appreciate art created by their fellow students but to become artists themselves with the guidance of art vendors.

Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER
Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER

The Arts Walk was hosted by ASPB, who aimed to “showcase (their) student talent on campus, kind of like what (they) do with Battle of the Bands but with art,” said Ria Madon, director of films and lectures at ASPB. “We show all sorts of different artists, such as photographers, painters, caricature artists, even spoken word poets,” said Madon.

At the beginning of the event, the longest line was clearly for the Chick-Fil-A stand, probably because it was nearing dinner time and students were hungry after a long day of school. There was, however, a single line that rivaled the one for Chick-Fil-A, which was for the T-shirt spin art stand.

The spin art, hosted by James Event Productions, was created using an appliance that looked like a pottery machine. “You’re basically taking a T-shirt and putting it on a spindle … while the centripetal force creates a design,” said Rob Hilburn from James Event Productions. “The goal is to make your own psychedelic sort of T-shirt.” The patterns were indeed vivid and trippy, looking like a hundred multicolored lines on a tree trunk.

Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER
Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER

Thirty minutes into the event, lines for the other vendors began to increase. One such stand was for the selfie mirror, which was a body-length, gold-framed mirror under a white tent. All you had to do was walk up to the selfie mirror, which was brought by LA PartyWorks, and press the screen like any touchscreen camera.

While there were interesting forms of art that people could engage in, there was also art created by students that people could look at.

One such work of art, titled “Pocket Watch” by Yajaira Gomez, was an up-close photograph of a brassy-golden pocket watch on a rich, forest green felt cloth. When I first looked at the picture, I thought it was a golden temple in a forest but upon further inspection realized it was a simple pocket watch. It was fascinating how the photographer could manipulate the distance and angle to make an object appear to be something else.

Another art piece that stood out was “Embrace” by Kaliah Hekima, an oil-on-canvas painting that showed the profile of a pregnant woman. The woman was also holding flowers up to her face, which mitigated the importance of individual identity in the picture. Instead, what was projected was the promise of life and the vitality in nature, giving the impression that the woman was an embodiment of Mother Earth.

Another form of student art at the Arts Walk was the Origami Club stand. Not only did they display intricate origami forms of Master Yoda and a numerously folded golden dragon but they also demonstrated to students how to do origami themselves.

Commenting on the possibilities of origami, Merin Alvarez, vice president of the Origami Club, said, “You have so many bases to work with.There’s square-base, waterbomb base, frog base, height base, crane base — you work with whatever base you want and the base folds eventually create something origami.”

Forty minutes into the event, the Backseat Pilots lit up the air with an electric indie rock set that was reminiscent of the dream-pop rock band Beach House.

Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER
Jeffrey Chang/HIGHLANDER

As the sunset phased into twilight, the performances that accompanied the pleasant Arts Walk participants transitioned into individual student performers and eventually a live art demonstration with two students. One student used whiteboard markers to draw a skeleton riding the ocean on a mutant rabbit creature while the other used watercolors to paint surreal purple and orange waves dispersing from black wings. Both artists started from a canvas of nothing and ended with a full masterpiece using a whiteboard marker and a paint set.

“I thought they had a lot of different events that they usually don’t have. Like this,” said second-year art history major Leo Vilchis, pointing toward the T-shirt spin art stand. “The Chick Fil-A was good. And the music’s pretty good. And it’s the perfect time of day. Classes are over, the sun is setting, but there’s still a good amount of movement.”

By the end of the Arts Walk, everyone had something to take home with them, whether it was their first “piece de resistance” of art or the feeling of being fully immersed in different colors, textures, sounds and people. I personally will not forget sitting on the bench feeling completely warm and buoyant, listening to the Backseat Pilots emit electronic sound waves, watching the skateboarders perform their risky stunts and seeing the exceptionally vibrant color palette known as “UCR students” pigmenting the realm of the Bell Tower. It was one of those moments that made me think, “This is my school. Everything we are and everything we stand for is right in front of my eyes.”

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