Our Kind of Happening
While other colleges prepare for homecoming parades and football games, Columbia College Chicago celebrates this time of year with art—and it takes that art to the streets. On Friday, October 21, the South Loop’s Wabash Avenue will be abuzz with the 4th annual Wabash Arts Corridor (WAC) Crawl. The WAC Crawl is a sprawling showcase of arts programs, gallery exhibitions, tours of the murals, alumni events and (new this year) competitions in and around the South Loop.
Neysa Page-Lieberman and Shannon Bourne, the co-organizers of the Crawl, see their roles as providing a platform for the Chicago arts community, letting art itself take the lead with the WAC Crawl from year to year.
In this way, the WAC Crawl’s approach to arts presentation is more potluck than tasting menu; a collage of many different elements unanchored to a single aesthetic. “WAC really runs with the spirit of try anything,” says Page-Lieberman, who is the new curator of the Wabash Arts Corridor. Page-Lieberman has worked at Columbia for 11 years and is also the director of the Department of Exhibitions, Performance and Student Spaces (DEPS). She believes that the WAC Crawl is in “a really good position to take risks.”
“When people think of public art, they often think of static sculpture,” says Page-Lieberman. She wants to move beyond the limitations of walls, pedestals and stages to incorporate “alternative, interdisciplinary types of street and public art, that may include movement, music, actions, projections, happenings and audience collaborations."
This year, the WAC Crawl has more than 40 different events and performances and more than 100 community partners, many of whom were brought together by Norman Alexandroff, director of Internal and External Partnerships. Alexandroff has had an extensive hand in community partner-building for the WAC through fundraising, door-to-door outreach and bringing community partners onto the WAC Advisory board.
“Before WAC, Columbia held art gallery crawls in just our own spaces. Now, we get to present works that are incubated at Columbia alongside work developed by our community partners and present all of it to the public” says Page-Lieberman.
This year, more students are catching on and getting involved. “It’s the first year students have come to me proposing events. Students are getting involved and feeling like they really own the event,” says Assistant Director of Student Activities Shannon Bourne, who has been the lead producer of the Crawl for the past three years. During freshman orientation this year, Bourne was approached by a student magician who will be one of many joyful surprises at the event.
Though it has hosted interactive events in the past, this year is the first year that the WAC Crawl is featuring competitions and games. There is Cutthroat Illustration judged by Design assistant professor Chris Arnold and a pinball tournament as part of the Skillshot: Collaborative Art of Pinball exhibition at the Glass Curtain Gallery.
There are few academic departments that aren’t involved in WAC. Bourne recognizes that academic departments like Creative Writing, American Sign Language and Design have all been central to the success of the Crawl over the years.
Page-Lieberman comes from an arts background and Bourne received her masters in Arts Management. Though they may not call themselves innovators in arts presentation, they should. What makes the Wabash Arts Corridor and the Crawl so unique, so intrinsically Columbia, is that it seizes on the rich opportunity of being located in the heart of Chicago. When asked if she models the WAC Crawl after other similar events elsewhere, Page-Lieberman says: “I can’t find anything like this anywhere else.”