The Honors College Student Union will present an exposition of student artistry in the Honors College this Saturday, as well as the work of two faculty artists, Bruce Levingston and Philip Jackson. The Southern Wild: The First Annual Sally McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College Fine Arts Showcase will be held at the Powerhouse, a perfect location for a display of inter-disciplinary arts.
Both Georgia Norfleet and Eleanor Anthony, honors college students and organizers for the event, praised the Powerhouse for opening its doors and supporting the Honor College Student Union’s ventures.
“Yes, it’s the perfect venue, but they have also just been so supportive,” Norfleet said. “They get it. This is what they do. They love hosting events like this. They love supporting art in the community and that’s exactly what this event is supposed to do.”
The showcase will begin in the foyer of the Powerhouse with visual art, including the work of renowned realist painter Philip Jackson, who is also an associate professor of art at the university. Sculptors, painters, potters and drawers will present their work, and there will be a reception with food and a cash bar.
“I kind of describe it as a progressive dinner,” Norfleet said.
Guests will move into the theatre for a performance art segment that will include poets, singers, musicians and dancers. Bruce Levingston, the Honors College artist-in-residence who dazzled crowds at this year’s convocation with his performance served as a huge supporter and advisor for the showcase. Levingston will also be playing a much-awaited piece at the event.
Many view the Honors College as a conglomeration of deep-thinking academics who fully focus their energy on their studies; however, “The Southern Wild” aims to exhibit students who pursue various intellectual artistic endeavors alongside their academic disciplines.
“The Southern Wild” has been a recurring theme within the college, and through their diverse display this weekend, these students will be able to convey what the phrase means to them.
“There is no one vision of Southern identity,” Anthony said. “We’re this mix of people and backgrounds; some of us aren’t even originally from the South, some of us have moved here for school or work, some of us have lived here our whole lives. We all have different experiences that we associate with this place, and this showcase is about seeing things through other people’s eyes. I’m really excited to see the totality of that come together.”
One performer, Elizabeth Romary, chose to exhibit her own connection to the South through dance alongside her friend Kate Prender. Romary’s piece, fittingly called “The Southern Wild,” is set to music from the film Beasts of the Southern Wild and takes inspiration from her own childhood in North Carolina.
“When choreographing a piece, I just like to listen to the music and then kind of think about things it reminds me of. And that music reminds me of being a kid,” Romary said. “It reminds me of running around in my backyard and just having fun and exploring. To me, that’s my Southern experience.”
Romary took inspiration from different regional dance styles like Cajun dancing and Appalachian step dancing.
“The Southern Wild” will present a wide range of works from artists who otherwise might not have a chance to display their work through the Honors College.
“We realized that the work and talent of the artists in the college didn’t really have a formal venue within the SMBHC community, and we felt that creating that space was important not only for the development of the artists, but also for the rest of the Honors College students and the broader university community,” Anthony said. “I believe strongly in the Honors College’s commitment to the citizen scholar model of education, and I think an integral part of citizen scholarship is fostering and investing in our shared artistic culture, both as artists and as supporters of the arts.”
Anthony and other organizers put all of this together in hopes that the arts showcase would be a perpetual opportunity for honors students to exhibit their chosen craft.
“We’d love for everyone to come and invest in the artistic life of this university,” Anthony said. “This whole weekend is really about celebrating the culture and community of Oxford, and I’d ask, ‘what better way is there to do that than supporting the work of students here at UM?’”