Franco-American Centre fosters artistic expression with new student gathering

The Happenings Series at Franco-American Centre. 

Last Saturday, Feb. 3, The Happenings Series, a multi-disciplinary, genre-fluid collaborative event was held at the Franco-American Centre. Curated and facilitated by University of Maine students, these series celebrate arts from diverse backgrounds.

In performance arts, the term “happening” was first used in the 1950s by Allan Kaprow, a pioneer in establishing the concepts of performance arts. Generally, happenings describe art-related gatherings that can be spontaneous and unscripted. It is difficult to define a happening and predict what it is going to be like. People sharing their work, the audience in the venue and the venue itself make every happening unique, which is the beauty of it.

“You could call lots of things as happenings, and they can be dramatically different from one another,” Brendan Allen, co-organizer of the series, said. Along with Jill Hughes, Allen put on the first happening last semester. Both graduate students in English, Allen and Hughes brought these series to UMaine with a shared a goal of initiating conversation between people.

“One of our goals is to be as inclusive as possible. We only know so many people, and certainly have our own groups within our department,” Allen said. “We wanted to make sure that this remained open to different creative acts, and different forms of work. A single space where people could share their work and interact with one another.”

More than 45 people gathered to experience the happening. Students and faculty were among the performers and the audience. Chris Mares, Tori Hood, Prateek Kunwar, Morghen Tidd and Mitchell Herring shared their works of poetry and short stories.

Tidd, an English student, was invited to be a part of the happening by Allen and Hughes, who saw Tidd read her work in the past. Last Friday, Tidd performed a short experimental fiction piece, which she wrote on the day of the event. Tidd’s piece is a collection of her own answers to 12 questions from Bhanu Kapi’s book of prose poems called “The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers.”

“The Happenings foster a lot of different types of performances and arts, so I thought that it would be a good setting in which to try something experimental,” Tidd said. Performers from various fields, such as writers, dancers, visual artists, musicians, actors, community engagers, scholars and everything “outside and in-between” are welcome to perform at the happenings.

“I am always a little nervous before I do readings,” Tidd said. “But the atmosphere created at the happenings was very inviting and warm. Once I was in front of the podium, I felt relaxed and enjoyed it.”

After Kunwar’s poetry reading, there was a short break, during which the audience had a chance talk to performers and the curators.

“The feedback was overwhelmingly, incredibly positive. It is really good to see that there is interest among people who feel that this [event] is filling a need,” Allen said.

It was a full event, which shows that the interest in performing at Happening Series is increasing.

“It’s picking up a lot of steam,” Allen said. “We are really lucky to have a partnership with the Franco-American Centre. We are looking at how we can continue to use that space effectively to fully accommodate the happenings. It is an exciting challenge, one that we are certainly excited to keep working with.”

If you are interested in sharing your work at this event, check out The Happenings Series on Facebook. Upcoming happenings will be held on Feb. 24 and March 31.

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