As the sun was setting into a warm winter’s evening at UCR, students could be seen lining up in mass amounts near the Bell Tower. As it turns out, the longest line was for free tacos (never underestimate a college student’s ability to find ways to get free food). But if the tacos made the students get out to the Bell Tower, it was the second annual UCR’ts Walk (which sponsored the free food) that kept them there, as an evening of performances and art pieces scattered round the area kept the attention of students and passerby alike.
Relaxed vibes abounded as students walked around with their free food and peered over various art pieces. Easels nearly surrounded the Bell Tower, with art styles ranging from pencil sketch to oil to watercolor and more.
As I waited in the long and understandably slow-moving line for free caricatures, three figures in tight-fitting black bodysuits suddenly materialized from the sides of the stage in front of the Bell Tower with paint brushes. Slithering their way across the stage, the San Diego-based art performance group Splash rhythmically danced to the synth-based music coming out of the PA system. Unlike the speed painter performance at last year’s performance, Splash, a performance art group of three, took their time — their performance lasted close to 15 minutes. Acrobatics included, the painting on the black canvas behind them slowly took shape, forming a tiger’s face in a grassy field. Though from my angle I could see that faint lines were printed onto their canvas for them to follow along, their performance was still impressive as they timed their painting and movements with the music.
A reggae-rock band took the stage next. The performance was nothing really special, and lost my attention fairly quickly as I became anxious to have myself drawn as a caricature. Land of the free stuff continued as there was once again no charge for this service — making the event more carefree and less stressful, even for student wallets. Two women sat in their chairs diligently drawing countless student faces for hours, and though my beard was drawn a little long, I had nothing to complain about — getting a caricature drawn is always a fun experience (she added a little propeller to my hat as well, something I’ve always dreamed of having).
One of the more unique exhibits was available for all who walked by to edit. Two large chalkboards reading, “Before I graduate, I want to …” sat at one of the corners of the Bell Tower with chalk available for students to scrawl their ambitions and future accomplishments onto the board. Aspirations ranged from raising one’s GPA to studying abroad, from skydiving to, changing someone’s life.
Later on, more music, this time from Hip Hop Congress, including one student calling himself Korean Jesus, who was part of the group, entertained the crowd of students in front of the Bell Tower. Joined by a drummer and two other Hip Hop Congress members at one point, Korean Jesus and the group’s upbeat buoyant energy and dancing, along with their quirky and enjoyable lyrics made for a fun and engaging performance.
As Splash returned to the stage one more time, the unmistakable cantina music from “Star Wars” began blaring from the speakers, and the quest to figure out what portrait from a galaxy far far away they would paint began. As the music cycled through variations of the famous John Williams’ score, the black-suits fought with their paint brushes as if they were light sabers, while appeared, Yoda did, on the black canvas.
As the two paintings were raffled off to two excited and grateful students, the night came to a close. Though not a lot happened beyond the handful of performances, the event was a perfect opportunity to rest and get away from the stress of midterms. Walking around and admiring art in different forms with friends and fellow students in the now-brisk Riverside night turned out to be the best of all the free things available that evening.