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Life is Art Festival shines in Fredonia

The Life is Art Festival made a splash last Saturday in Fredonia. Organized by the Fredonia State College Music Industry Club and its president Noelle Panepento, the third annual 12-hour festival hosted various bands, comedy groups and singers and displayed artwork in Fredonia's Barker Commons.

The weather could have been better, however. Heavy rain forced the organizers to move the festival partly indoors to a nearby church. Nevertheless, the festival was a success.

Many high school and college students attended to have fun with friends and enjoy the entertainment and art. All the proceeds from the festival's games, raffles and food items went to Music Is Art, the not-for-profit organization founded in 2004 by Goo Goo Dolls' bassist and Buffalo native Robby Takac, as well as to the Fredonia Central Schools art programs. Not only does the Music Is Art Foundation hold a large festival in Buffalo each year, it also helps to repair instruments and give to children in schools that are experiencing heavy budget cuts. One of the raffle items at the Life is Art festival was a guitar signed by Takac.

The festival's roots go back to 2010, when a member of the Music Industry Club proposed the idea. In the last two years, the festival has raised more than $1,800. The festival is entirely student-run. Under the leadership of Panepento and production chairwoman Shauna Presto, the student organizers of the event gather sponsors, hire bands and get everything set up.

"I am so excited to oversee this festival especially because I know Fredonia kids love going outside, listening to music and being with their friends all at once," Panepento, a junior at Fredonia State College, said.

Panepento could be found doing many tasks to make the festival run smoothly, from conducting the Chinese raffle to making cotton candy for sugar-hungry students. She said she has a passion for music and helping others enjoy music as much as she does. As a music business major, she said running this festival feels more like a leisure activity than a job.

There was a variety of lively music at the festival. One of the bands that performed was Perestroika. Vocalist and guitarist Chelsea O'Donnell, a junior at Fredonia State, lit up the crowd with her jovial attitude, and the band's roaring music, in her words, really "punched and kicked you." Perestroika's music is mostly alternative rock and post-punk and also has a 1990's influence as well. O'Donnell says she has always had a great love for music, ever since she started playing piano at age 6 and later when she switched to the guitar. She commented that she has always wanted to be part of a band, and that playing at gigs, such as the Life is Art Festival, has been a dream come true.

There were many other exciting exhibitions of music and art at the festival. For example, the Fredonia A Cappella Group performed, and there were many displays of artwork.

Sarah Peck, a Fredonia State junior, had a huge display of her artwork for sale. She said she heard about the festival and was more than happy to show off her artwork.

"My favorite part of the festival is meeting new people from around the community and seeing other people's amazing work," she said.

The festival tried to get everyone involved even if they were not performing or selling artwork. A big board was on display that had the following statement written many times: "Art is -- ". Festivalgoers were encouraged to fill in the blank. Some of the responses were: "messy," "chaos," "bittersweet," "like a box of chocolates," "full of mistakes," "my soul mate" and "everything."

Carl Frantz, a senior at Fredonia studying photography, had a stand that included many of his unconventional photographs. His work attracted a large amount of interest from those in attendance.

The Life is Art Festival truly was an amalgam of so many different types of art forms, and with so much diversity, there was something for everyone. It was amazing to see how so many young people in the Music Industry Club at Fredonia State College are so dedicated to music and the arts that they would organize this entire festival by themselves.

Creativity and originality were put to the test at the festival, and despite the rain, the artwork and music shined through the dark clouds.


Michael Khan is a sophomore at Canisius High School.