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Columbia students power this year's Manifest urban arts festival

(Alexis Ellers/Columbia…)
May 17, 2013|By Erin Vogel @eringejuice | For RedEye

Starting at noon Friday, Columbia College will shut down a section of Wabash Street in the South Loop for its annual Manifest urban arts festival, the school’s biggest event of the year that will showcase the work of more than 2,000 graduating students until about eight in the evening.

But the all-day event is more than just an arts festival. Sure, there will be exhibitions of original student work, from paintings, to singer showcases, to readings and performances from 53 Columbia bands on 9 different stages, but there will also be rock-climbing, stationary bike racing, a pedal-powered amusement park, a BMX-bike competition, performances from headlining acts like Now, Now and Chance the Rapper, and this year’s graduates zip-lining--yes, zip-lining--through the South Loop in caps and gowns.

The school’s student activity fee and partnerships with Connie’s Pizza, CHIRP Radio, Columbia student organizations and 20 other South Loop student businesses make Manifest possible financially.

This year’s festival theme, “Student Powered,” is a nod to the students who work every year to make Manifest a reality in the last week of the semester --just about every aspect of the event is student-run and organized.

Twenty-year-old junior Allie Shuman is doubly involved in Manifest this year as the festival’s main intern and member of the Student Programming Board. She helped coordinate the events and showcases, as well as the participation of the college’s departments and outside vendors.

Shuman, who majors in live and performing arts management, said her involvement with Manifest has been an amazing learning experience that will help her in her career in event planning and production.

“To me, Manifest invokes a spirit of passion that our entire campus has for the institution,” Shuman said. “Personally, [the festival] has connected me with the school on an entirely different level than I thought possible. In addition to Manifest helping my pride for Columbia grow, it also has done the same for my interest in my industry.”

Luke Crawford, a 21-year-old sophomore who serves as director of special events for the Columbia chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, said a video of Manifest that he saw his senior year in high school influenced his decision to go to Columbia.

“No other college I know of does something this phenomenal,” Crawford said. “It’s almost like our version of Lollapalooza.”

Crawford hopes in the next few years, Manifest can continue to reach out to parts of the city beyond just the surrounding South Loop.

“By the time I finish here at Columbia, I hope Manifest can be a citywide event--just an artistic day that everyone gets to come out and see what true artistic passion has to offer, because that’s what Columbia is. We are true artistic passion, and we experience it every day.”

All of Manifest is free and open to the public, and according to Mark Kelly, vice president of student affairs at Columbia, the school expects about 30,000 people to attend Manifest.

“It’s our 13th year in the year 2013, and some would suggest that this would be an unlucky year, but we don’t believe in superstition, so it’s going to be a great day,” Kelly said.

Manifest’s full schedule is available here.

Erin Vogel is a RedEye special contributor.

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