Columbia College Chicago Hosts 4th Annual Black Arts Festival

Black Arts Festival 2021 synthesizes the past and present to inform visions of an empowered future.


For the past four years Robert Hanserd has helped students raise their voices and present their work in Columbia’s Black Arts Festival. It all started in 2018 when Alivia Blade ‘17 and Bri Heath ’17 approached Humanities, History, and Social Sciences Assistant Professor Robert Hanserd with an idea to celebrate Black artists. Together, Blade, Heath, and Hanserd organized Columbia’s first Black Arts Festival. Today, the festival has transformed into an annual gathering that synthesizes past and present to inform visions of an empowered future.

This year’s Black Arts Festival’s theme is “Unity, Community, and Connectivity.” The festival continues to provide an affirming, community space for Columbia College Chicago artists who identify with the African diaspora to share work through theatre, performances, film, visual art, scholarly panels and discussion, while critically engaging each other through roundtable discussions, audience interaction, and collaboration.  

For greater continuity in the academic experience Hanserd decided to create a course to help students coordinate Black Arts Festival. Black Arts Movement (HUMA 211) begins by exploring the 1960s, a period when many revolutionary Black Americans, artists, dramatists, writers, critics and philosophers engaged in intense debates over the role of the artist in the making of a cultural revolution, and over what constitutes a genuine or true black aesthetic. However, students do not need to take this course to get involved in Black Arts Fest.

Avanté Love ’23 is an arts administration major with a focus on visual arts and is getting a glimpse of what his future can hold by curating this year’s festival. “I meditated on the fact that this period of my life is calling for me to advance my studies of my cultural origins. I feel that I am responsible for understanding myself, ancestrally speaking, just as I am responsible for shifting the paradigms of this society for the posterity,” said Love on why he decided to get involved with the Black Arts Festival. As curator, Love helps design, construct, and share the narrative of the event. “In short, I am cultivating expression for my own artistic abilities through connecting with and organizing others,” Love adds.

The 2021 Black Arts Festival invites students from various art forms to work together with a critical lens to create impactful art to share with the greater Chicago art’s community, local arts organizations and neighboring universities in the South Loop.

One of those students, Dontra Vickers ’23, a game art major, became involved in this year’s festival after Hanserd asked her to do a review of Akwantu: The Journey and to brainstorm a possible game she could make about the movie. Vickers hopes that the Columbia community takes the Black experiences’ history and culture away from this year’s festival.

Another student, Roya Allen ’22 is an advertising major who is managing the marketing for the festival. While in her leadership role, Allen learned how to be an advocate for her work, “It is ok to be a bother sometimes when you are in time sensitive situations. The person you are trying to reach out maybe just as busy as I am, and everyone can use a reminder,” Allen said.

For the first time, Black Arts Fest is virtual and housed on Columbia’s Engage platform. The festival’s content will be available all year long at:

The Black Arts Festival is curated entirely by students and alumni and is free and open to the public.


Sarah Borchardt
Communications Manager