Expanding the Tradition

Communiversity will be three days of art, music, dance, theater and fun

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Communiversity Schedule of Events
By: Kristin Boyd
   There was only one way organizers could make Communiversity an even bigger success this year: Supersize it.

   By overwhelming demand, Communiversity 2007 has been expanded from an afternoon arts festival into an all-star weekend that will include three days of activities.

   "It was something that people started talking about a couple of years ago," says Jeff Nathanson, executive director of the Arts Council of Princeton, which co-organizes the event with Princeton University students. "We were kicking the idea around and thought, ‘This is great. Let’s expand.’ Everybody jumped on board very quickly."

   Princeton Arts Weekend begins April 27 with "Pinot to Picasso Vintage 2007," a fundraising benefit hosted by the Arts Council, and continues Saturday with the 22nd annual Communiversity Festival of the Arts.

   Following Communiversity, visitors are invited to take an evening stroll through the Princeton Public Library plaza and Palmer Square or check out several concerts featuring Chris Botti, the Princeton University Orchestra and Westminster Choir College. The arts weekend wraps up Sunday with several entertainment events, including The Adventures of Perseus at McCarter Theatre and Princeton Pro Musica’s The Majesty of Slavic Music.

   "The event changes every year so there is always something new," Mr. Nathanson says. "The public will see a really wonderful, diverse range of artists, performances and food vendors."

   Communiversity is the brainchild of Anne Reeves, founder and former executive director of the Arts Council.

   Knowing the benefits of a diverse community, Ms. Reeves has worked to erase the invisible line that often keeps Princeton residents and university students from interacting with each other.

   "I felt that one of the wonderful reasons for living in this town is the university," she says. "Many people thought there was a great deal that residents and students could benefit from if they had an opportunity to share their favorite things or interests."

   In 1985, she enlisted the help of university students Lillian Osliva and Doug Platt to brainstorm ideas on how the community could bridge the town-gown gap. The group settled on a community pancake breakfast but later switched gears when someone suggested hosting a massive arts-and-entertainment festival instead.

   The festival, Ms. Reeves says, was an extension of the art fairs and maypole dances held by the Art People’s Party during the 1970s and 1980s.

   "It seemed perfect because we wanted to have a celebration that was fun and would produce good will and camaraderie," says Ms. Reeves, who was a member of the Art People’s Party.

   Planning such a large event — in downtown Princeton, no less — was quite an undertaking, but group members plugged away. They had to request select streets be closed off to traffic and convince area artists, performers, organizations and businesses to attend.

   "The more we thought about it, the more we thought, ‘Let’s do this,’" Ms. Reeves says, chuckling as she recalled the group’s exuberance. "It was a lot of work, but we knew we were doing something great, and we knew it would be appreciated."

   The group named the event Communiversity — a blending of community and university. The catchy moniker reflected Ms. Reeves’ ongoing desire to bring together all Princetonians, whether they live on Harrison Street or in a campus dormitory.

   "Princeton is so special. We have one of the great universities of the world, and we have this amazing town full of great people," she says. "Having a wonderful, close harmony is vital. Why wouldn’t you want to share that with each other?"

   Communiversity remains a beloved Princeton tradition, and this year’s event is sure to be another success.

   "It’s about as much as you can have for free," Mr. Nathanson says, adding visitors can purchase foods and artist wares. "There is great dance from Fiesta Flamenca and the YWCA dance group. There is some really great music from Eco Del Sur and the Klez Dispensers, and new this year, the Princeton School of Rock." Throughout the day, more than 150 artists, crafters, merchants and organizations will line Witherspoon and Nassau streets.

   In addition, ballet and Chinese lion dancers will perform, and the Princeton Academy of Martial arts will give a demonstration. The musical lineup includes the Princeton University Marching Band, The Codes, The Session, Alex & the Kaleidoscope Band, EarWax and the Princeton Garden Statesmen, among other groups.

   The Tom Haine Band, Shakespearean actors and Indian dancers will perform on the Princeton campus, where students will host a global village. Visitors also can watch the pet parade on Palmer Square Green, then check out Italian street painting on Palmer Square West. Scavenger hunts and university tours are planned, as well.

   "I love seeing the diversity of Communiversity because there is such a mix," Ms. Reeves says. "I don’t think people are always aware of Princeton’s diversity because we go to our little boxes for work, then come home without interacting with the community."

   Everyone is invited to Communiversity 2007 — men, women, babies, even dogs, Ms. Reeves jokes, adding residents from surrounding communities are also encouraged to attend.

   Communiversity is wheelchair accessible, and public parking will be available in lots and garages on Chambers, Hulfish and Spring streets. Additional parking is available in Princeton University lots 10 and 10A on William Street, just off Washington Road. "There is no other way to put it: Communiversity just sparkles when everyone comes together," Ms. Reeves says. "It really is something quite special. Don’t miss it."

  • Pinot to Picasso Vintage 2007

Princeton Arts Weekend kicks off with an art-and-wine benefit from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday at the old ETC space near Teresa Caffe, 25 Palmer Square East.
   Throughout the night, patrons can sample fine wines, buy pieces created by area artists and participate in a silent auction. An Art Tombola, or Italian-style lottery in which ticket holders have one minute to choose an artwork to take home, will be the evening’s highlight.
   Tickets are required for the event, which will raise money to complete the Anne Reeves Studio, located at the Art Council’s renovated Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, now under construction.
   Limited tickets are still available: $75 per person, includes tasting only; $275 per person for tasting and Art Tombola ticket; and $350 per couple for tasting and Art Tombola ticket.

  • Communiversity Festival of the Arts

   Communiversity will take over downtown Princeton from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday.
   Thousands of visitors are expected to converge on Nassau and Witherspoon streets, where more than 150 artists, crafters, merchants, food vendors and community organizations will set up booths and tables.
   In addition, marching bands, flamenco dancers, rock singers, barbershop choruses and Shakespearean actors, among other entertainers, will perform on several stages.
   For a complete list of Communiversity performers and a map, see Pages 6 and 7.

  • Evening Stroll

   Beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, visitors can enjoy live music on the plaza adjacent to the Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon St., where the Witherspoon Grill is sponsoring Franklin-Alison & Friends, an eight-piece ensemble. The Halo Pub on Hulfish Street also will provide music.
   While mulling about downtown, visitors can stroll through Palmer Square, where participating restaurants and stores are offering specials in celebration of Princeton Arts Weekend and the square’s 70th anniversary.
The Adventures of Perseus will take place at McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, Princeton, at 11 a.m. Cost is $12; mccarter.org; Princeton Pro Musica will perform The Majesty of Slavic Music at Richardson Auditorium, Princeton University, at 4 p.m. Cost is $38-$45.; www.princetonpromusica.org. For additional events, visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.