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College Art Festivals Around the Nation

These four fun and funky college art festivals represent some of the best of what the college art scene has to offer.

Boston College Art Festival. Image via bc.edu.

College is the place we can find ourselves, the place where we students discover what it’s like to be out on our own, what we truly like and dislike, where we belong. Part of that is the freedom to express our creativity however we choose. Whether it’s through dance, music, or fine arts, creativity is all around us as college students—and often on display during campus art festivals. Here are some prime examples of the college festivals in which students like us can express our creativity.

Columbia College Manifest

Every May Columbia College in Chicago takes a Friday and shuts down a small section of Wabash Street for their annual Manifest art festival, the school’s biggest event of the year. More than 2,000 graduating students have their artwork (and craftwork and music and theater and . . . you get the idea) displayed in this all-day event.

But Manifest isn’t just an art festival; there are also plenty of other events to participate in, including rock climbing, bike racing, amusement rides, and more. Three outdoor stages hold musical and theatrical performances and storytelling for children throughout the day, and DJs continually play music. The College’s seniors present their musical, dance, acting, and other talents through performances and presentations all day long and for all ages.

If you’re in the Chicago area, Manifest is a great way to spend a Friday. From the beauty of the art displayed to learning about new ways of creative expression to the excitement of a fair, Manifest is the perfect blend of classic culture and the wild spirit found in the modern day.

Beacon College Arts Festival

Beacon College in Florida held its first art festival in 2015, and it proved to be a huge success, bringing the students of the College as well as the members of the community together to celebrate creativity and art. Professors from the College taught plenty of workshops that helped participants explore their artistic talent and discover new techniques. These workshops included learning how to work with glass, how to create art from memory, and how to work with the proper tools and materials to safely make body casts.

Along with the workshops and displays of arts from the College’s students and faculty, local high schools students also got to show off their talent through a special art show, where they could also win prizes for their pieces. Cash prizes were awarded to best in show, best 3-D artwork, and best 2-D artwork, plus honorable mentions, so that no matter what, students could feel proud of their art. Featured also in this festival were food art demonstrations, chalk art, gallery receptions, and more.

What’s especially cool about this festival is that, since Beacon College is a school for students with learning disabilities and ADHD, the Arts Festival is a unique opportunity to showcase their work in an environment that understands their needs. As the years progress, the festival is sure to add many new surprises and traditions.

University of Northern Iowa College Hill Art Festival

It’s been almost 40 years since the College Hill Art Festival was founded, and it’s still going strong. Run purely by volunteers, the festival is all about making fine art accessible not only to the students on the University of Northern Iowa campus but also the citizens of the surrounding communities.

Each year a new panel of judges select 75 artists to showcase and sell their work at the festival. Alongside those works you’ll also find performances by local music groups, hands-on activities for children to engage them in the process of making art, and a “young collectors” exhibit where kids can buy pieces of artwork they like at really low prices.

Like many other festivals, there is a variety of vendors offering many different cultural foods and picnic tables surrounding the performance areas, so guests can enjoy their snacks while listening to the talents of local performers. Whether be listening to music or looking at art, there is are plenty of options to help you kick back and relax and enjoy the festival, which has proven to be very popular.

Boston College Arts Festival

Every spring Boston College hosts an art festival that brings students and other members of the community alike together to celebrate art. With more then 16,000 guests and over a thousand students and faculty presenting many different varieties of art, the festival is an ongoing success.

At the Boston College Arts Festival, there is something for everyone. You can find special activities for kids, such as art and crafts to encourage their creativity; interactive activities where the kids can actually talk with some of the artists; story time and children’s theater; and, last but not least, the “instrument petting zoo,” where kids can get up and close and personal with band instruments. For older teens and college students, there are many other events. The student artwork sale allows you to come and browse the students’ pieces and buy whatever draws you in. There are plenty of cultural displays in many different art forms as well. There are even special events just for alumni coming back to the College. 

No matter what kind of art you prefer, the Boston College Arts Festival has it all and is the perfect place to learn and experience fine art and culture.

Whether it’s in the Windy City of Chicago or the bustling streets of Boston, art is everywhere, and students like us are given the chance to shine at art festivals all around the country. These festivals will inspire you, change the way you think and see things, and help you experience the world of art in ways you never have before.

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About Caroline Potts

Caroline Potts is just a small town girl with big hopes for the future. Her love of reading really fueled her passion to write. Although, she's interested in Archaeology academically, she would like to write books as well. Caroline loves to travel as there's so much of the world to see! Basically, she describes herself as your typical shy, quiet, reading nerd.


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