Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 17
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
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Put a Fine-Weather Wish on the Wish Tree for Saturday’s Town and Gown Festival

Stuart Mitchner

Money may not grow on trees but, according to a Princeton University senior from Istanbul, wishes do. While there were no wish trees at last year’s Communiversity, somewhere between then and now wishes and money came together on campus at 185 Nassau Street in the form of the Lewis Center of the Arts and in town at the corner of Witherspoon and Paul Robeson Place, where the new Arts Center is emerging from the chrysalis of its reconstruction.

Festival of the Arts 2008 will take place on Saturday, April 26, from noon to 5 p.m. in downtown Princeton.

On campus, the money half of the equation — a gift of $101 million from 1955 Princeton graduate and trustee Peter B. Lewis — paid for, among many other things, the material one student artist needed to create the installation on display through Saturday at the Lewis Center’s Lucas Gallery.

The artist whose work will be featured this week and during the Lewis Center’s Communiversity debut is Arzu Komili ’08. Last fall this Istanbul native constructed a wish tree of her own and placed it outside the Frist Student Center. She called the installation Canvas of Wishes, which she described as “a two-dimensional canvas grid structure. I had a box of fabric in front of it, and I asked everyone to make a wish and tie a knot of fabric onto the work. And in the end the work was completed by the entire community around here.” She got the idea, she said, from the wish trees of Istanbul, which can usually be found at holy sites where people go to make wishes: “They tie knots of fabrics, plastic shopping bags, anything and everything, string, tissues.” In Turkey the wish trees, or Nahils, are also part of a spring festival called Hidrellez that has been celebrated since ancient times, with food, drink, street buffets, and music. While Arzu may not have had Communiversity in mind when she conceived her variation on the Ottoman custom, it’s hard to imagine adding a more appropriate component to this Saturday’s mix, and since the inspiration extends beyond Princeton to Istanbul, it also fits nicely with the international aspect of Communiversity, which will include a Moroccan song and dance troupe, Ahwach Aday and the Women of Guedra, and the International Center’s Parade of Flags.

Arzu Komili’s Canvas of Wishes will be on display along with the artist’s more formal and finished works, some of which are “monumental,” according to Marguerite d’Aprile-Smith, director of communications at the Lewis Center. In at least one case, the creation — a massive, richly black tide of folds and contours — dwarfs the artist. “She creates them by crumpling and manipulating canvas and introducing other fabrics like tulle, organza, and sometimes burlap into the surfaces,” said Ms. d’Aprile-Smith, who came to Princeton from the N.J. Council on the Arts, where she was director of external affairs; before that, she worked for the J. Paul Getty Trust as senior editor of a seven- volume art history reference work.

“Actually, most of the fabrics I used came from the covered bazaar in Istanbul,” said Ms. Komili. “It’s an extremely common fabric in Turkey called Yemini. It’s what the Anatolian women use as a kind of head scarf.”

Art works in strange and wonderful ways. Ms. Komili came to Princeton to study biology or economics and ended up an art history major with a certificate (i.e. a minor) in the visual arts. “I’d never taken an art course until I came here.”

Like other student artists benefiting from the resources at the Lewis Center, she’s enjoyed having her own studio space on the fourth floor at 185 Nassau Street.

Communiversity gives the town its first real chance to see what the Lewis Center is all about. A tour of 185 Nassau Street provided an impressive example of the magnitude of the program, which covers creative writing, film and video, dance, musical performance, theater, and visual arts. This Saturday the center will be sharing a booth with the Office of Community and Regional Affairs. “This is our first time out of the gate,” said Ms. d’Aprile-Smith, wistfully imagining how it would have been if there’d been room to display one of Arzu’s striking creations. “But then anyone who wants to see her work can come inside the gallery.”

If the weather becomes problematic, the Lucas Gallery would make an excellent refuge. Although Communiversity is a rain or shine event, it might not be a bad idea to put some wishes on the wish tree and hope that the fates will pour sunshine on Princeton this Saturday.

Arts in Town

Meanwhile on the town side of Nassau, the Arts Council’s Princeton Arts Weekend will offer a wildly varied array of activities, including a pet parade sponsored by Pawtisserie, a used book sale on Hinds Plaza, Princeton Rep Theater’s Shakespeare in the Square (with a guest appearance by Paul Muldoon), a Green on the Green recycled art project with Arts Council faculty member Eva Mantell, performances by the Youth Orchestra of Central New Jersey and the Princeton Junior School choir, as well as performances on the Town and Gown Stage (corner of Witherspoon and Nassau), the Paul Robeson Stage (Witherspoon and Hulfish) and the Chambers Street Stage (Nassau near Chambers street), featuring the Klez Dispensers, Alex & the Kaleidoscope Band, Eco Del Sur and The Shaxe, not to mention Borough councilman Andrew Koontz’s family band, Edna’s Kin.

The art equation on the town side will also include numerous artists and crafters and art-related activities for kids, and culinary art in an array of food from around the globe. Free arts activity areas will be scattered throughout the event including caricature drawing by Steve Smith, printmaking techniques with Anita Bernarde, Italian Street Painting, and the Town and Gown Scavenger Hunt. The Arts Council activities booth located near the Town and Gown stage at the corner of Nassau and Witherspoon will feature games inspired by artists such as Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. Close to 200 artists, crafters, merchants, and local organizations will join in the festivities.

Library Book Sale

The Friends of the Princeton Public Library will be holding a special Spring Book Sale outside the Library on the Plaza (or in the Library’s lobby in case of rain), featuring bargain books for summer reading for all ages. Of special interest are books on gardening, cookbooks, children’s books and good buys to take along on vacation

Pet Parade

The art theme continues with Pawtisserie Princeton’s second annual Pet Parade, where pets should be attired as their owner’s favorite artist or work of art. Contestants will be divided into classes determined by size/weight. Participants will parade around the Green at Palmer Square and begin and conclude at the judges’ table. Winners among all categories will be awarded prizes based on best costume. Participants are asked to sign up for the parade by contacting the Pawtisserie at (609) 921-7387 Check-in is 1:30; event time is 2 to 2:20 p.m.

Pinot to Picasso

Princeton Arts Weekend kicks off on Friday evening, April 25 with Pinot to Picasso — Vintage 2008, the Arts Council’s third annual spring art and wine fundraiser to benefit the Anne Reeves Studio in the new Paul Robeson Center for the Arts. A highlight of this ticketed event is Tombola, an art lottery featuring original works by over 80 local artists. For Pinot to Picasso ticket information and for a schedule of other arts-related events in and around town on the weekend, visit the Arts Council website where a complete performance schedule is available. Last year’s Communiversity attracted more than 30,000 visitors to downtown Princeton.

Communiversity 2008 was made possible by lead sponsor Tyco International, and major supporters Bristol-Myers Squibb, Palmer Square Management, PNC Bank, Princeton Packet, and Princeton Shopping Center. Art Activity sponsors include: Bank of Princeton, BlackRock, Commerce Bank, Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, Princeton Junior School, Trenton Film Society, Triumph Brewing Company, and Witherspoon Grill.

For a full schedule of Communiversity activities and Princeton Arts Weekend events and performances visit the Arts Council website or call 609-924-8777.

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