University of Maryland: 10 Ways to Dive Into Fun and Creativity at NextNOW Fest

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For two nights this weekend, the Kogod Theatre at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center transforms into a mecca not for theater, dance or music—but for ollies, heelflips and fakies. An indoor skate park is one of the offerings at this year’s NextNOW Fest, a five-day experience kicking off today that welcomes the University of Maryland community to engage with the arts at venues across campus and beyond.

Presented and produced by The Clarice and now in its ninth year, the festival includes over 40 free performances, installations and activities in a wide range of spaces. The event is the result of partnerships with UMD student-led groups, academic departments and local and touring artists.

“It’s hard to keep track of it all,” said Maggie Letvin ’24, a studio art and immersive media design double major who’s one of three undergraduate artistic planning fellows who helped curate this year’s NextNOW Fest alongside professional staff. “Dance workshops, musical events, but then also lowkey things if you want to sit back and be more quiet. You can do all of the above.”

NextNOW Fest is a cornerstone of Arts for All, a campuswide initiative that aims to broaden the footprint of the arts across campus and galvanize collaborations between the arts, technology and social justice.

Below are 10 festival highlights to make sure are on your list. Find even more to entertain and amaze in the full festival lineup.


1. Kick-off party
A party at the Hall CP, a restaurant and event venue in the university’s Discovery District, will start NextNOW Fest 2022 in style. The event will feature student musicians and bands, local and alum vintage clothing vendors, a suminagashi-style paper marbling activity and more.

2. Puppet kits
Loaded with materials like googly eyes, pom-poms and yarn, Family Art Kits will be available to graduate students and their families for free throughout the week, allowing little and big kids alike to emulate UMD’s own puppet (and Muppet) master, Jim Henson ’60.

3. Exhibitions galore
Several exhibitions are on display throughout the festival week, including Telling Our Story: Community Conversation with Our Artists at the David C. Driskell Center, which includes works from the Driskell Center collection accompanied by typed and handwritten letters from guest selectors stating why they like the piece, how it captured their interest and why it is significant to them. The Stamp Gallery presents Unspoken Volumes, featuring sculpture and digital media work by New York-based artist Hae Won Sohn. The UMD Art Gallery in the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building will showcase 22 student-curated sculptures from the collection of D.C.’s Art Museum of the Americas, as well as unveil its new Video in The Atrium (ViTA) space with a film by Spanish artist Cristina Lucas. The building’s courtyard will feature an installation by African American performance artist Jefferson Pinder ’94, M.F.A. ’03.

4. Laugh-out-loud comedy
Maryland Night Live is a group of UMD students who write and perform a comedy show inspired by “Saturday Night Live.” Performances from other student groups like Sketchup and The Hysterics will aim to keep audiences solidly in stitches.

5. A stage for skating
In partnership with Skateboarding Club at UMD and We Skate UMD, The Clarice is welcoming skaters of any level to take a workshop or participate in a skate jam/competition in one of its many indoor performance spaces. This event is co-sponsored by University Recreation & Wellness.

6. Immersive installations blending art and technology
immersive media design exhibit
UMD’s immersive media design (IMD) major teaches students to use technologies like virtual and augmented reality, computer graphics, 3D modeling and more. At both the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering and The Clarice, festivalgoers can experience projects developed by IMD students during a summer incubator. For instance, “Pthalo” is an augmented reality game embedded in a series of paintings, while “&#@_SCREENCACHE_%*$!” is an interactive video installation that meditates on technology and social media.

7. A ‘Human Library’
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a cop in a big city, a Russian scientist or an undocumented immigrant? Check out a human “book” for a live 20-minute conversation with a member of the UMD or local community to turn the page to a very different point of view from your own.

8. Touring musical artists
Indigo De Souza
The Clarice courtyard will transform into a bona fide concert venue for grooving to the sounds of two leading artists: Emmanuel Okanlawon, known professionally as YungManny, a rapper from Bowie, Maryland, and Indigo De Souza, an indie singer-songwriter from Asheville, North Carolina.

9. Uncomfortable (in a good way) conversations
Ziwe headshot
The viral sensation Ziwe is a comedian known for asking brazen questions about race and social issues—and making people squirm in the process. This event features a hot seat-type conversation with a UMD student and a moderated conversation with D.C.-based journalist Tim Perry.

10. Dance party with a twist
Silent Disc Glo event
Grab a set of wireless headphones and listen to one of three live DJs—including one from UMD’s own Terrapin Record Label—playing totally different musical styles. Those without headphones can experience the surreal effect of a party full of people dancing in silence to different beats. Artwork created by MFA Projection Design students from the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies will heighten the visual interest and add ambiance. Don’t forget to grab a drink at the mocktail bar!

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