Manifest Urban Arts Festival Makes a Digital Debut May 11-15

Columbia College Chicago’s famous Manifest Urban Arts Festival moves forward online; recording Artist Jamila Woods will headline the event

CHICAGO—May 6, 2020. Continuing on in the spirit of determination and refusing to be stopped by the destructive and disruptive force of COVID-19, Columbia College Chicago’s Manifest Urban Arts Festival will be held online for the first time in its 19-year history at

Starting Monday, May 11, festival attendees can shelter in place and enjoy interactive programs created and curated by nearly 2,000 Columbia student artists. The weeklong schedule includes daily musical performances on the Mainstage, gallery exhibitions, dance and theatre performances, sketch comedy, and much more. 

The festival ends on a high note with a live-streamed performance by singer, songwriter, and poet Jamila Woods who headlines this year’s unprecedented festival. Woods, a Chicago native, has released two albums and is widely known for her collaboration with Chance the Rapper on the hit song Sunday Candy. Viewers can watch the soulful songstress perform live Friday, May 15 at 6 p.m. CST. on the Manifest Facebook and website.

This year’s theme is most appropriate for the student-run festival, Manifest Rises, which calls the Columbia community to rise as empowered artists, rise above negativity, rise to challenges, rise as global citizens, and rise together. Kari Sommers, Assistant Dean of Students, says Columbia students are the embodiment of this year’s theme. “Our students are the essence of talent, creativity, professionalism, and resilience. They are unstoppable in their determination to RISE,” says Sommers.

Having the experience of programming a festival in the midst of a pandemic has brought to life the expression ‘the show must go on,’ for Music Business student Aly St. Laurent who works as the Programming Assistant for Manifest Rises. It’s also taught her the value of collaboration. “I can’t begin to express how much I’ve learned from working on Manifest Rises this year, both from the work itself and my team. The only thing I’ve gotten more of during the experience than learning is an absolute fun time I’ll always remember.”

Even though the festival has transitioned to the web, the event’s planners hope the community will attend Manifest as they have in the past. “We want to create a social media storm the week of Manifest,” said Shannon Bourne, Director of Student Activities at Columbia College Chicago. “In order to be successful, we need everyone in our community to contribute to this effort the week of Manifest.”

Columbia College Chicago’s Manifest Urban Arts Festival has been celebrating student creativity since its inception in 2001. Heralded as a student-powered festival because Columbia students drive its production each year, the annual tradition brings the campus community together in Chicago’s South Loop to celebrate Columbia’s creative spirit and creates long-lasting, memorable relationships, and connections. With student performances and displays, and past music headliners such as Common, Buddy Guy, The Pharcyde, Lupe Fiasco, Chance the Rapper, and Ella Mai, the event is known to draw large crowds.

This year Manifest merchandise will also be available online at ShopColumbia. Fifty percent of the Manifest apparel purchases will be donated to ColumbiaCares, a fund for students who are facing unexpected financial challenges and emergencies.

For more information and the most up-to-date programming, visit



Columbia College Chicago is a private, nonprofit college offering a distinctive curriculum that blends creative and media arts, liberal arts, and business for nearly 7,000 students in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Dedicated to academic excellence and long-term career success, Columbia College Chicago creates a dynamic, challenging, and collaborative space for students who experience the world through a creative lens. For more information, visit



Keisha Cowen
Senior Director of Campus Communications