Free Arivu concert, Festival of Monsters, and special exhibitions: celebrating National Arts & Humanities Month at UCSC

October is National Arts & Humanities Month (NAHM), and the University of California, Santa Cruz is gearing up for a month-long celebration that spotlights the transformative power of these disciplines. NAHM, a nationwide extravaganza, aims to showcase the profound impact that arts and humanities have on our lives and society. 

After three decades since its inception, this month-long observance continues to enlighten the public about the magic of creativity and knowledge brought forth by these fields.

"National Arts and Humanities Month raises public awareness about the ways these disciplines foster creativity and new forms of knowledge, bringing meaning to our lives,” said UC Santa Cruz Humanities Dean Jasmine Alinder. "Our series of on-campus events will help our students learn what it means to become citizens of the world, whether they are engaging with a message of justice at the Arivu concert or considering issues of identity and community at the Festival of Monsters."

“In today's rapidly evolving world, the importance of humanities and the arts is abundantly clear," Alinder said. "As we navigate complex technological advancements and global challenges, it is the humanities that provide us with a profound understanding of our history, culture, and the human experience. The arts, in all their diverse forms, allow us to express our creativity, emotions, and perspectives, fostering empathy and connection in an increasingly disconnected world. They serve as a mirror to society, reflecting its values, aspirations, and struggles.”

Organizers of National Arts & Humanities month point to the many ways in which these disciplines contribute significantly to critical thinking, problem-solving, and innovation, while providing an intellectual and emotional foundation for a more enlightened and compassionate future.

“As research repeatedly shows, the arts help understand ourselves and each other and what binds us together,” said UCSC Arts Dean Celine Parreñas Shimizu. “The pandemic surely proved the arts as necessary for survival. The arts help us to grapple with the unpredictability of life itself. NAHM makes art accessible, bringing the community together to experience the power of the arts and humanities.”

UC Santa Cruz is no stranger to the cultural and artistic significance of NAHM, and this year is no exception. The campus has curated a captivating lineup of events, including a not-to-be-missed free open-air concert featuring the groundbreaking Indian rapper Arivu on October 7. This musical extravaganza promises to deliver an electrifying message of justice to the audience. Another highlight will be the annual Festival of Monsters, which starts on an appropriately monstrous day: Friday the 13th.

Here is a list of some key events.

In keeping with the  celebration’s spirit, Arivu will perform at the Quarry Amphitheater at UCSC at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 7. Doors open that evening at 7 p.m. The concert is being presented by the Center For South Asian Studies (CSAS) at UC Santa Cruz. Advance registration is required for concert attendees. 

Through his singles such as ‘Anti-Indian,’ ‘Kalla Mouni,’ and ‘Sanda Seivom,’ Arivu is known as a prodigal talent with the guts to speak truth to power. 

Arivu has achieved a high profile in India for his powerful music aimed at, among other things, destroying the country’s rigid caste system, " wrote Lookout Santa Cruz in its recent write-up of the upcoming show. 

At the UCSC concert, Arivu will lead members of his Ambassa band, an experiment in bringing together the western elements of hip-hop, beat boxing and rock with the native sounds of Folk, Gaana, and Oppari. 

“Ambassa’s mission is to showcase the need for justice in an increasingly divided India, through the transformative as well as rousing powers of music,” said UCSC Professor of Feminist Studies Anjali Arondekar, founding director for the Center For South Asian Studies. 

On Sunday, October 8, the Humanities Institute at UCSC and Bookshop Santa Cruz are co-sponsoring an author talk at the bookshop with Oliver Jeffers, globally renowned artist and internationally bestselling author. Jeffers will read from BEGIN AGAIN: The Story of How We Got Here And Where We Might Go, an artistic journal through humankind’s history. Jeffers examines humankind’s shared motivations for existence in his first illustrated book aimed at a broad audience. This event includes a solo presentation by Jeffers, a moderated Q&A, and book signing.

One of the highlights of the month-long arts and humanities celebration will take place October 13-15.  UCSC’s unique Festival of Monsters, presented by UCSC’s Center For Monster Studies, will call attention to the many monsters that dwell in the murky depths of popular culture, film, art, and literature, allowing artists and writers to explore the themes of social conflict, prejudice, and injustice. 

“From werewolves to kaiju, from ghosts to golems, from doppelgängers to Dickens, from the medieval to the modern, the 2023 Festival of Monsters explores the monstrous through scholarly, creative, dramatic, and visual mediums, offering us all new and exciting ways to think about monstrosity,” said Department of Performance, Play & Design Professor and Chair Michael M. Chemers, director of the UCSC Center For Monster Studies. “Monsters intrigue us as much as frighten us for their capacity to shiver our orthodoxies and, in so doing, present the possibilities for new (transgressive) ways of being,” Chemers said.

Held in two locations in Santa Cruz, the 2023 Festival includes a free public day and a paid academic conference, with performances, readings, presentations from monster-makers, and an exhibit at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH) entitled Werewolf Hunters, Jungle Queens, and Space Commandos: The Lost Worlds of Women Comics Artists.

Authors Mallory O'Meara (The Lady from the Black Lagoon) and Jess Zimmerman (Women and Other Monsters) will give the keynote talks. Author Addie Tsai (Unwieldy Creatures) will read and discuss her book, which is a queer, nonbinary, biracial retelling of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

On Friday, October 13,  the in-person festival begins at the Museum of Art and History with a full day of free public events including a panel with Black Nerds Create, a talk with the creators of Theater of Terror, Addie Tsai's reading, a Q&A and mask display by locally-owned Trick or Treat Studios, Mallory O'Meara's keynote and the opening of the exhibit.

On Saturday, Oct. 14, the academic conference continues with all-day panels on monstrous topics at UCSC's Digital Arts Research Center (DARC) capped by the evening Monsters Ball Costume Party at the Institute of the Arts & Sciences. Make sure and bring a costume! The conference ends Sunday, Oct. 15, at the DARC with final panels and performances.

All conference locations are wheelchair accessible and have handicapped parking nearby. Conference menus include gluten-free and vegan options.

Sponsors include the Arts Research Institute of UC Santa Cruz, the UC Santa Cruz Arts Division,  the UC Santa Cruz Humanities Division, The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz, Porter College, the UC Santa Cruz Foundation Board and private donors. Additional support is provided by Bookshop Santa Cruz and Trick or Treat Studios. 

 On Tuesday, October 24, Bookshop Santa Cruz will welcome environmental journalist Rosanna Xia, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, for a conversation with UCSC professor Gary Griggs about her new book California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline. This event is cosponsored by The Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz.

“Just as the coast defines the liminal world between land and sea, so too does Rosanna Xia’s remarkable book exist in the overlap between development and erosion, between geological forces and human desire, between our ambitious past and our tenuous future,” writes Ed Yong, acclaimed author of An Immense World. “It’s viscerally urgent, thoroughly reported, and compellingly written—a must-read for our uncertain times.” 

And stay tuned for the unveiling of THI’S Deep Read book selection in October. This year’s book pick will reflect Deep Read’s Technology theme. Visit the THI page for more information on this popular annual program.