Campus gets 'un-plugged' with arts & sciences extravaganza

Families from surrounding communities visited Elon on May 3, 2014, for an inaugural celebration of the humanities and natural sciences that featured music, dance, exhibitions and hands-on activities for children of all ages.

From music and dance performances to public art displays and turtle rescue simulations, Elon University celebrated the arts and sciences in a Saturday event that brought families from surrounding communities to campus for an afternoon of educational activities and shows.

“Time Un-plugged: An Elon Arts & Science Celebration” featured exhibits organized by university faculty who teach archaeology, herpetology, dance, art, environmental issues and more.

“We wanted to do something special with the 125th anniversary of the university this year to focus our attention on the arts and science and how our fields, as distinct as they are, really collaborate in many ways to help us understand the world better,” said Angela Lewellyn Jones, associate dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. “Faculty who were interested in the festival brainstormed one day, trying to come up with the one thing all of our fields have in common. And they settled on the notion of time. We all deal with time in one way or another.”

There’s seasonal time. Ecological time. Reproductive time. Metered time in music and dance. All were represented throughout the day at one of several event sites, including Young Commons, the Lakeside Amphitheatre, the Center for the Arts and Arts West.

Admission was free, though organizers collected nonperishable food item in support of Allied Churches. Local artists and ensembles took part in the day as well, as did the Elon Music Ambassadors, who performed music by Lake Mary Nell on the breezy and sunny afternoon.

“Time Un-plugged” also featured a nationally renowned environmental photographer who brought to campus an exhibit of photographs illustrating the worldwide state of amphibians. Based in Washington, D.C., Robin Moore returned to Elon University less than a year after his first visit to work with students in the Elon Academy and Associate Professor Terry Tomasek’s herpetology program.

For Moore, “Time Un-plugged” was a way to introduce people to the beauty of animals threatened by climate change and other human behaviors.

“We as a species attribute value to animals similar to us,” Moore said. “I’m interested in changing perceptions of less charismatic creatures such as amphibians, which are the most threatened of all. They play a very important role, too, especially here in the southeastern United States, a hotspot for salamanders, where we don’t realize what we have on our doorstep and what we’re losing.

“I use photography to showcase these animals and to show they’re beautiful and worth protecting. I hope people will look at them in a different light and take away a great interest in them.”

Time was a theme woven into three student-choreographed performances in the Center for the Arts. Junior dance majors Kaitlinn Brewer, Brenna Dames and Amber Schmiesing created their short works during a choreography class last fall led by instructor Chris Burnside, one of the lead “Time Un-plugged” organizers.

All three found inspiration in personal experiences or habits, including one of the nation’s most tragic events of their generation.

“I remember 9/11 when it happened. I remember where I was sitting and who I was with,” Schmiesing said of her piece, which focused on memory. “I wanted to make my piece about looking back and remembering vivid things in your past and how they both changed and shaped you.”

Scott and Emily Lewis and their daughter, Lillian, were among the families who attended “Time Un-plugged.” Lillian, a second grade student from Graham, N.C., beamed as she spoke of holding a snake for the first time.

“I’ve seen a snake but I’ve never held one,” she said. “I thought it would be slimy!”

“Was it?” Emily Lewis asked.

“No!” her daughter replied. “They’re fragile and when they curl up you have to hold your hands like a cup because they’re resting.”

And that is exactly what organizers hoped to see at the celebration: Exploration and appreciation of the environment.

“The ingredients are extraordinary, and the inspiration for this whole event is what is happening to our environment,” Burnside said. “It is a not a one-discipline solution. This is our generation’s issue. What are we leaving for everyone else?”

The arts & sciences afternoon celebration, along with The President’s Concert musical event hosted later in the evening by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert featuring Department of Music students, faculty, staff and alumni, capped CELEBRATE! Week 2014.

Each year, hundreds of Elon University students are involved in activities during CELEBRATE! The week includes seminars, presentations, art exhibitions, plays, student showcases, dance and music performances, and more.

CELEBRATE! brings together the stimulation of academic inquiry and scholarly pursuit with the exhilaration of creative expression, and the inaugural arts & sciences event is the newest effort to broaden that program.

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