A Glimpse Into Kitao’s Fall Festival: Art as Community Building

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Hidden in the bushes on the very verge of campus, Swarthmore’s only student-run gallery, Kitao, is a small cottage that can easily be overlooked.

“A lot of people don’t know what that space back there behind the frats is,” lamented Elizabeth Whipple ‘18, current director of Kitao. “I think it’s really a shame, because a lot of really cool stuff is going on here.”

Kitao aims to become a more central part of campus life through its campus-wide Fall Festival, which is scheduled to take place from September 30 to October 2. The fall festival, while rooted in showcasing diverse student artists, goes beyond pure aesthetics. “It [the festival] was shaped by those ideas of finding ways to bridge between students, faculty, and staff,” said Whipple.

Last year, Kitao’s student board applied for the maximum $10,000 grant in community development. It has since surveyed, alongside with the OSE, the most effective way to promote cross-campus collaboration. The range of community members involved in the festival is impressively wide, with a specific focus on multi-cultural appreciation. Dancers will be performing as Tri-Co collectives. Faculty members in the art department are supporting the event by holding feature lectures and students with or without artistic expertise will be welcomed to explore their artistic sides in the many workshops planned, hopefully even taking home some original art to continue the artistic conversations. The scope of arts exhibited is also incredibly broad, extending from tea-making to comedy to slam poetry.

“We want to build support for community members who may be under-appreciated, and create a central network for the creative groups on campus because there are so many creative students here but there’s no real community of it,” Whipple said. She is still working hard on organization to achieve this goal.

These weekend festivities are just another step Kitao is taking as part of its goal of relating Swatties with art.

“During my sophomore year, I tried to get some exhibitions going […] but it was really disheartening to curate these shows and work with such talented artists only to have maybe three people show up at an opening. We knew that this needed to change,” recalled Deborah Krieger ’16, previous Co-president of Kitao.

With the mission in mind, the board began to host projects such as Open Coffeehouse and ‘Paint the Walls’ to activate Kitao’s function as a linkage.

“It meant that more students were more likely not only to come to shows, but to ask about participating and curating their own shows.” observed Krieger, “and it’s not just about artists in a narrow sense. We want to provide more opportunities for student artists not enrolled in [art] courses to create, experiment and explore.”

Kitao continues to tie Krieger closely to Swarthmore, though she is currently in Europe.

“I will be praying for sunny skies on the day of the festival and hope that Kitao continues to grow so when I come for my fifty-year reunion, it will still be going strong,” she said.

Featured image courtesy of kitaogallery.tumblr.com.

Xihan Zhang

Vivian is a freshman from Shenzhen China who agrees with Gabbo Marquez that writing pleases your friends.

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