Global Arts Festival to educate students about different cultures within the performing and visual arts

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Ohio University’s second Global Arts Festival kicked off Monday, bringing diverse cultures to Athens and celebrating the complexities of diverse artistic fields.

The festival, which was due to take place in 2020 but has been postponed due to COVID-19, will consist of a variety of events throughout the week such as workshops, concerts, lectures and a symposium, all leading up to the tenth World Music and Dance Concert on Saturday.

The festival was founded in 2019 by College of Fine Arts professors Paschal Yao Younge and Zelma Badu-Younge, who teach music and dance respectively. The two will act as festival directors.

Badu-Younge said she and Younge were inspired to create the festival to provide art students with a more holistic learning experience that recognizes the unique styles of other cultures.

“We thought it would be a really good opportunity for (our students) to get hands-on experience,” Badu-Younge said. “When they interact with artists from around the world and see that not all artistic work comes from the west, that artistic work can come from all sorts of places, and how they involve artists from around the world can also influence their work.”

Younge said the opportunity to interact with other artists from around the world will help influence how art students at OU understand the work of others and how it is often not very different from their own work.

“The activities of this festival introduce our students to different ways of conceptualizing the arts and potentially open up new avenues of creativity, expression and aesthetic appreciation,” Younge said in an email. “The aim is to present a variety of musical sounds and dance movements from all over the world and thereby expand the creative experiences.”

These activities include a symposium focused on arts, health, wellness and sustainable development, with various guest speakers commenting on the topic and looking at it through the lens of the performative and creative arts.

On Saturday, the festival will conclude with the World Music and Dance Concert, featuring performances by The National Dance Company of Ghana, Messiah College Symphony Orchestra, Messiah College Percussion Ensemble, Azaguno Inc. New Chords on the Block, Ohio University African Ensemble and Steel Band and more.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and is $15 for general admission, but is free for students.

Stephany Yamoah, director of the National Dance Company of Ghana, said she and the dance company arrived last week and have been working directly with current students in the OU’s dance and music departments, including a project where they create new costumes using plastic bottles.

“We’re here to share our culture, (and) we’re here to perform,” Yamoah said. “Our mission is to educate through the arts, to inform and also to develop our art and culture.”

During Yamoah’s time at OU, she said that the dance company will not only provide an insight into Ghana’s culture, but also aim to change the perceptions they might have of their country.

“Because we’re only here for a short time, most of the students who attend our workshops get to know our culture. They will learn our music and dance and they will have the opportunity to see what Ghana has to offer and that in turn will draw them back to Africa,” said Yamoah.

The exposure students can have with these cultural groups, Younge said, can ultimately help them discover new ways of constructing visual and performing arts and celebrate diversity within the field.

“With the increasingly changing demographics of our students, with OU’s greater diversity and international makeup, there is great potential and need to create more opportunities for cross-cultural understanding, achievement and appreciation of the performing arts,” Younge said in an email. “We hope that the festival will bring the entire university and community together… and embrace, appreciate and learn from different cultures.”

@laureneserge

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