Student-Driven Program of the Year:
"ArtAwake" at the University of Rochester

Art Awake BannerPrimary Contact:

Stacey Fisher
Assistant Director, Wilson Commons Student Activities

Carlin Gettliffe
ArtAwake Director

Program Description:

ArtAwake is a one-day art and music festival organized by students at the University of Rochester designed to bring Rochester students and community members together. The annual event takes place in an abandoned or underused building in Rochester. The first event, ArtAwake 2008, took place on March 28, 2008 in a partially renovated building called Station 55. A wide variety of art was displayed at the event including sculpture, performance art, installation pieces, interactive pieces, painting, and photography. Over the course of the 10-hour event (4 p.m.–2 a.m.) a number of local musical groups and bands played, representing such genres as classical marimba, jazz, rock, electronic, and Hawaiian slack key guitar. Tickets to ArtAwake were set at $3 for students and $5 for community members. A limited quantity of food was served free of cost and was provided by a local caterer. Transportation was provided for University of Rochester and Eastman School of Music students throughout the evening.

ArtAwake was organized by a group of students in the Urban Exploring Club, a student organization dedicated to exploring Rochester’s abandoned and underused urban spaces. The Urban Exploring Club was created with the goal of providing students with a way of getting to know the city of Rochester. ArtAwake 2008 was an extension of that effort. Prior to putting on the event, student organizers identified several goals that they hoped to achieve through ArtAwake. These were:

  1. Draw students out into the City of Rochester; build interest in off-campus life.
  2. Generate an opportunity for increased interaction between students and community members.
  3. Promote the creation, display, and enjoyment of art.
  4. Facilitate wider collaboration between University of Rochester student groups; facilitate collaboration between on-campus and off-campus organizations.
  5. Encourage awareness of and discussion about Rochester’s abandoned and under-used urban spaces.
  6. Create a memorable and fun event that fulfills the above values and goals.

To make ArtAwake a highly collaborative event, the student organizers reached out to a number of different on-campus and off-campus organizations. In total, the event was cosponsored by nine student groups. Each cosponsor was asked to contribute to funding as well as some aspect of event planning or execution. Additional funding was received from the University of Rochester Center for Entrepreneurship, the Eastman School of Music, and through private donations. Several community organizations provided in kind donations (as in the case of all sound equipment and some event publicity). Event expenses totaled approximately $10,000, while total income (including monetary sponsorships, in kind donations, and ticket sales) exceeded $12,000. Please refer to the included event budget for more information.

Marketing for the event occurred through print, electronically, and virally (distributed stickers, post cards, etc.). In order to build interest in the event and create a presence on campus, call for art posters and event posters were frequently rotated out and utilized drawings, paintings, and photographs from ArtAwake artists. The student organizers succeeded in building significant buzz on campus surrounding the event.

To facilitate communication, the students planning ArtAwake made heavy use of Google Documents. All to do lists, calendars, and event information were contained within online documents accessible to all student planners. Additionally, signup and coordination of event volunteers occurred through Google Documents. This ensured that at any given time all organizers, cosponsors, and volunteers were up to date and could easily access any information they needed.

By the numbers, ArtAwake was an unequivocal success. More than 1,400 people attended the event (not including bands and event personnel)' approximately half were students and half community members. Fifteen different bands and musical groups played over the course of the evening. Over 75 local and student artists displayed work, totaling about 225 pieces. Perhaps even more important than the concrete evidence of ArtAwake’s success, however, are some of the anecdotal stories concerning the impact ArtAwake had on its attendees. The following quote appeared in an article written after the event: “I’m so glad I came today, I learned a lot about myself and it’s a whole lot different than who I thought I was. I learned that there is beauty all around us—sometimes even in the places that scare us … and it only cost me $3 to find that out.” As an event truly for all ages, ArtAwake saw children, college students, working adults, and senior citizens enjoying the same event.

ArtAwake has gained considerable momentum since its 2008 debut, and planning is now fully underway for ArtAwake 2009. A number of student organizations now include ArtAwake in their annual budgets when submitting for funding from the student association and many want to be involved in the planning of future events.

Art Awake PictureSupporting Materials:

ArtAwake Budget
ArtAwake Information Sheet
Station 55 Blueprint
Station 55 Letter of Support


Campus Times Article (April 3, 3008)
Campus Times Photo (April 3, 2008)
Democrat and Chronicle Clipping
RocLoop Article (April 2, 2008)

Updated April 24, 2009