Festival melds the arts and education to promote diversity
Celebrating its fifth year, Sarahfest, the annual arts and music festival organized by the University of Mississippi’s Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies alongside campus and community partners, returns with a series of free events showcasing art, music, and media that embrace diversity in local and statewide communities.
The festival’s origins can be traced back across two decades, when gender studies minors and faculty members organized a benefit concert on the Oxford Square. Local businesses offered their support, and by working together, they built a bridge between the university and the larger community.
The Isom Center’s theme for the year is “Crossing Borders,” and associate director Theresa Ann Starkey says this is the perfect introduction to Sarahfest: “It reminds us of how the first Sarahfest evolved out of the boundary crossing done by gender studies minors and affiliates.” The spirit of collaboration among our campus and community partners is key to Sarahfest’s success. “Our partners support the idea that music and the arts can create transformative spaces for learning in which we can envision a more equitable future,” Starkey added.
The festival began on September 4 at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center with the opening of the Sarahfest Art Show, which features the works of Lee Harper and Megan Wolfe.
Harper creates intricate dioramas using miniature skeleton figurines constructed from found bones in her yard to engage in both local and national history. Megan Wolfe returned to Mississippi after eleven years as fine arts photographer in San Francisco. She will showcase a collection of photographs that challenge audience perception. A reception will be held on Tuesday, September 24 from 6–8 pm.
The festival continues into October, with the dynamic music of Chócala, a Charlotte-based Latin band. They describe their sound as “sonic amalgamation of Latin rhythms, rock, and jazz, with a touch of tropical psychedelia.” Their three-day residency from October 10–12, includes a performance on Thacker Mountain Radio, a concert in conjunction with Living Music Resource, and an LMR™ LIVE session where they will discuss their music.
Sarahfest will also host Dr. Lisa Costello, who will speak at Comicana: Comics and Graphic Novels Across the Humanities, a week-long interdisciplinary conference hosted by the University of Mississippi’s Departments of Art and Art History, Classics, English, Philosophy and Religion, and Writing and Rhetoric. Her panel, “Why Comics Matter…” is scheduled for 2 pm on Friday, October 11.
Dr. Samantha Allen, a GLAAD-Award winning journalist and author of Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States, will give this year’s Queer Studies Lecture on October 17 at 4 pm. Los Angeles Times called Allen’s travelogue “a book necessary for anyone in or allied with the queer community.”
All Sarahfest events are free and open to the public. For more information about location and dates, or to learn more about the artists, performers, or speakers visit sarahfest.rocks or contact the Isom Center at (662) 915-5916 or email@example.com.
Sarahfest aims to strengthen community bonds by celebrating and embracing diversity in all its variations. By blending the arts with education, the festival seeks to create dynamic spaces for change and to envision new realities that reflect a more equitable world for all. The festival begins in September and runs throughout the semester offering variety of free community events.