News | September 08, 2015


24 Hour Festival keeps participants on their toes

Students perform a song they wrote at last year's 24 Hour Festival.
Students perform a song they wrote at last year’s 24 Hour Festival.

FGCU’s annual 24 Hour Festival has left the building.

In its ninth year, the creative competition for students and faculty who race the clock to create art overnight will move out of TheatreLab and into a nearby parking garage to accommodate growing participation and an expanding audience.

A challenge of imagination, talent, teamwork and time management, the 24 Hour Festival presents participants with a list of elements to incorporate in whatever medium they choose – visual art, moving images, theater or music. The assigned components – they might be characters real or imagined, a quotation, a scenario, an object — will be under wraps until the kickoff event at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11 at Parking Garage No. 2 near the Arts Complex.

After the list is released, contestants scatter to residence halls, rehearsal rooms or apartments to work. They have just 24 hours to paint or sculpt, write and block a play, compose a song or edit a film and get back to the garage before the time is up.

Completed works will be displayed, screened or performed during the festival showcase Saturday, Sept. 12 on the first and second floors of Parking Garage No. 2. Visual art goes on display at 7 p.m., and live performances and screenings start at 8 p.m. The free event is open to the public.

Judges will award scholarships as prizes in four categories, and winners will be featured in “Capturing 24 Hours,” an ArtLab exhibit running Sept. 17-Oct. 1.

The festival has expanded this year, under the generous sponsorship of Gene and Lee Seidler. The showcase has become so popular it has outgrown the capacity of FGCU’s TheatreLab. A live performance by the Tampa art collective Experimental Skeleton will be presented while judges deliberate.

“Attendance has grown steadily every year as people began to know about it, and community members from off campus saw that it was such a fun event,” said Theatre Professor Barry Cavin, who produces the festival for the Bower School of Music & the Arts. “As the circle continues to widen, it brings more people.”

James Brock performs at the 24 Hour Festival in 2011.
James Brock performs at the 24 Hour Festival in 2011.

Students and faculty from all disciplines join in the artistic frenzy, although faculty members do not compete for prizes.

James Brock, a professor in the Department of Language and Literature, will enter for the seventh time. He said the challenge of working with “purposely impossible prompts” is similar to assignments he gives his creative-writing students.

“I do the festival to show other faculty the value of this kind of experience and expression,” he said. “It’s really about celebrating creativity. It keeps you on your toes.”

Brock is impressed year after year with the quality and creativity of the work students produce.

“You see some awfully talented students shining under that pressure,” he said. “There are some train wrecks, but they’re interesting train wrecks – that’s good.”

The caffeine-fueled competition has become a tradition eagerly anticipated by students who enjoy the adrenaline rush and the chance to push themselves creatively.

“I’m looking forward to it. I love the challenge and seeing what I’m capable of doing in such high pressure,” said Leila Mesdaghi, a senior art major from Fort Myers, who won the visual art category at last year’s festival with a piece that incorporated digital photography, video and sound. “The prompts are so random it seems impossible. You have to try not to think about anything else and focus on what you can do. There are so many decisions you have to make. There’s no time to overthink or overanalyze.”

Many students simply enjoy the challenge and the fun of it, but the festival experience also gives students a taste of the professional world, where time limits and teamwork often must be balanced with individual imagination, Cavin said.

“The act of creativity under pressure is really an important skill for anyone in any field but especially in the arts. There are so many times when you’re doing something on a deadline,” he said. “The other side of it is the beauty and power of improvisation. The free-floating imagination – that lack of editing yourself — sometimes surprises you and inspires you.”

  • Follow the festival on social media: #fgcu24hourfestival
  • Read a Pinnacle story about the 24 Hour Festival