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The large crowds of college students walking in downtown Rochester on Saturday evening made passing cars slow down and look with wonder. A UR bus pulled up beside what appeared to be an abandoned mall and dropped off another slew of students. On the storefront windows of the building, “Art Awake” was written in large, rainbow colored letters. Every time the door opened, loud rock music emitted from the space. Welcome to Art Awake 2013, the most interesting and entertaining event to hit downtown Rochester since the Fringe Festival.

Upon entering the building, visitors were hit with a wave of sound and color. White walls were erected in a looping formation throughout the room. Some of the displayed art was fairly “typical” and included landscape paintings, black-and-white photographs, and portraits. The other art pieces explored new mediums of art. A large, orange elephant painting on plywood board caught everyone’s eye. Next to it hung a cascade of black and white,  cut-out faces nailed to another piece of board. All the faces had various expressions and were of varying sizes.

If one stopped to read the descriptions under three of the photos, they discovered a whole new meaning. The attached booklets depicted various cases and experience of rape as described by the people in the photographs.

The art itself was impressive and created by local artists. Many of these artists were UR students and a piece of art instantly became even more impressive when one found out it was student-made. There is incredible talent in UR’s art department, but the general public sometimes forgets. Art Awake is a great chance to remind everyone.

The music at the event was quite varied. From 6-7:30 in the evening, the music ranged from rock band to folk style instrumental, then to new music with voice, violin, and toy piano. The music was a nice compliment to the artwork but sometimes made it a little hard to discuss the art with the people nearby.

As with any art event, new art should be created at the same time as old art is displayed. The Art Awake staff set up a short, white column in the middle of the room. Participants were invited to step forward with their cup of paint and add to the masterpiece. No one had any idea what would happen to it, but it turned out beautiful. Past issues of City magazine covered a few tables along with a few pairs of scissors, glue, and double-sided tape. There were no real instructions as to what to do with all of this, but that was the beauty of the project. Young and old alike sat at the tables and created hats, paper cranes, and garlands. Some of the less artistically inclined busied themselves with cutting out interesting words in the paper. People walked around the event proudly wearing their dorky, newspaper bowties and donning their ridiculous pointy hats. At least they were enjoying themselves.

No event would be complete without food and drink. Free samples of hummus, tabole, and marinated vegetables were served during the evening. There was just enough in the cups to taste and entice one to track down the restaurant for more. There was a vacant bar, which was probably much more popular later in the evening.

Overall, it was a memorable evening, and I’m glad I brought friends along with me. Making hats and paper cranes from newspaper is infinitely more fun with a group of people. It’s also nice to have someone along with whom to discuss the most interesting pieces of art as you explore. The organizing team for Art Awake, a sub group of Urban Explorers, has worked for months to pull of the event, and it seemed to be successful. This is the sixth year of the event. The group hopes that the event will grow as years go on; who knows what next year will bring.

Sanguinetti is a member of the class of 2015.

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