April 2007: the first time I walked onto Boston College’s campus. I was a high school freshman coincidentally visiting BC during the best time of the year, which I didn’t realize at the time: Arts Fest weekend. I was confused by the white tents, the music, and the sidewalk chalk, wondering if this was a thing that happened often. I was only on the tour because my older brother was looking at schools, so in reality I wasn’t paying much attention to what our tour guide was saying. I was just along for the ride, knowing that I had three more years before I had to decide on my own college.
April 2012: my first Arts Fest as an official BC student. I remember walking down to O’Neill Plaza on a glorious Saturday afternoon with friends from my building and our RA, ready to figure out what this Arts Fest hype was all about. I saw everything from Fuego dancers to student photography and everything in between, and I still remember spelling out on a Velcro board the name of a song beloved by some former Arts editors-Diplo’s “Express Yourself.” It made me realize how much talent is really present on this campus, and it prompted me to make a promise to myself that I would see as many performances and exhibits the next year as I possibly could.
April 2013: I had that confidence (dare I say, swagger) that only comes when you’re a sophomore in college and you think you’ve grown so much wiser within a single year. I had been to many more events that semester-a cappella cafes, Showdown, Sexual Chocolate’s Valentine’s Day show, you name it. I walked into Arts Fest knowing who was who, when to see my favorite groups, and how to make the most of the weekend’s festivities. Not only was I starting to get a sense of the campus celebs in terms of performance art, but I also was able to see my good friends taking the stage. I remember feeling so proud of my current roommate during her first swing dance performance, and seeing a classmate of mine working a hilarious puppet during Avenue Q. Arts Fest had become a space for both new talents to gain exposure and seasoned artists to enhance their skills-all available for my entertainment.
April 2014: the penultimate Arts Fest of my undergraduate career. I did not see nearly as many performances as I wanted to, which I do regret, but it just encouraged me to renew the promise I made to myself after freshman year. Even though the Heightsmen performed a song I have heard them sing countless times-“Come Fly With Me”-I realized that it was also the last time I would hear that rendition with some of the group’s most notable seniors. It’s the same realization I came to after seeing Showdown this year, as I tried to imagine my favorite dance groups without those familiar faces next year. And it’s the same fear that surfaces every time I hear the words “senior year”-the fact that soon enough, I will no longer be surrounded by the same faces, and the things that used to be so familiar to me will cease to be part of my everyday life.
Arts Fest, you really know how to slap me in the face with reality.
The festival itself has become a strange parallel to my own life at BC-beginning with uncertainty, followed by security, and ending with insecurity once more upon realizing that with graduation comes the loss of familiarity and comfort. The fact that the event coincides with the end of each academic year serves as a perfect opportunity for self reflection-as I watch various groups, who have worked together all year and grown in familiarity with each other and their audiences, I also consider the people and activities I was acquainted with my freshmen year, and how they have transformed into the things I love the most.
Arts Fest is, obviously, about art. But I think it goes beyond the mere display of artistic ability. The four-day annual event is an opportunity for students to see the work that their classmates have been preparing for all year, and how each group-whether dance, a cappella, theater, or comedy-has grown together throughout the past few years, just like every other student has with his or her respective groups. Not only does each group develop as its own entity, but we also grow along with them, engaging in a system of loyalty and mutual support by attending their shows and cheering them on. Arts Fest keeps us connected, to our immediate networks and the larger community around us, and reminds us of what keeps our students going: hard work, dedication, love, and fun.