World Arts Festival to enlighten students on diverse cultures within the performing and visual arts

The Ohio University’s second World Arts Festival kicked off on Monday, bringing diverse cultures to Athens and celebrating the complexity of diverse artistic fields.

The festival, which was scheduled to take place in 2020 but has been postponed due to COVID-19, will consist of a variety of events, such as workshops, concerts, talks and a symposium throughout the week, all leading at 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 be the directors of the festival.

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. “To have them interact with artists from all over the world and see that not all art work comes from the west, that art work can come from all different places and how engaging artists from all over the world can also illuminate their work.

Younge said the opportunity to interact with other artists from around the world will help influence how UO arts students understand the work of others and how it often doesn’t differ much 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 goal is to present a variety of musical sounds and dance movements from around the world and thereby broaden creative experiences.”

These activities include a symposium focusing on the arts, health, well-being and sustainable development, with various guest speakers who will comment on the subject and through the lens of performing and creative arts.

On Saturday, the festival will conclude with the World Music and Dance Concert, which will feature 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 will begin at 7:30 p.m. and will cost $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 worked directly with current students from OU’s dance and music departments, including a project where they create new costumes from plastic bottles.

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

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

“As we are only here for a short time, most of the students who attend our workshops will learn about our culture. They will learn our music, our dance, and they will have a chance to see what Ghana has to offer, and that will bring them back to Africa,” Yamoah said.

The exposure students can have to these cultural groups, Younge said, can ultimately help them discover new ways to build the visual and performing arts as well as celebrate diversity in the field.

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

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