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Join Northwestern’s Arts Circle Celebration

Free June 4 daylong Arts Circle Celebration to feature dance, music, demos, exhibits and more
  • Trisha Brown Dance Company to perform upon the rooftops of Arts Circle buildings
  • ‘Tea Project’ conversations hosted by artist/veteran Aaron Hughes with Amber Ginsburg
  • More than 150 cellists will pay homage to avant-garde cellist Charlotte Moorman
  • Block Museum offers a rare opportunity to witness the inflating of Otto Piene’s sculpture 

EVANSTON, Ill. --- On June 4 members of the renowned Trisha Brown Dance Company will be dancing on multiple rooftops around Northwestern University’s Arts Circle, their classic work “Roof Piece” visually uniting the architecture of the circle and the arts across academic disciplines.

Later in the day, more than 150 cellists will infiltrate the campus in small groups with spontaneous mini-concerts before gathering for a massive performance on the Arts Circle lawn. 

Guests on that day also will encounter the towering “Grand Rapids Carousel” (1979), a 40-foot-long inflatable sculpture with multiple, lifelike arms and legs by the late German artist Otto Piene.

From sunrise to sunset, as part of the Arts Circle Celebration at Northwestern, the department of art theory and practice will host artists Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg’s participatory “Tea Project,” highlighting debate over extralegal detention via “Tea Performances” and “Tea Teach-Ins.” 

These and other June 4 events mark a daylong celebration of Northwestern’s Arts Circle -- located on the southeast portion of the Evanston campus -- which welcomes patrons, students, faculty, staff, alumni and the larger community year-round to world-class exhibitions and performances. Representing the next chapter in Northwestern’s long history of arts excellence, the Arts Circle is a geographical location and a state of mind, embracing arts programming across the University’s many disciplines. 

The comprehensive online calendar, launched in early 2016, which is searchable by genre, venue and date, is an essential destination for the arts at Northwestern. The day’s celebration will feature world-famous artists as well as students from Northwestern and more than 50 other Chicago-area and North Shore schools.

The day will be highlighted by a keynote panel, “Why Art Matters,” composed of Northwestern faculty and alumna luminaries: poet and writer Stuart Dybek, jazz great Victor Goines, playwright Thomas Bradshaw, and art historian and curator Martha Tedeschi. The discussion will be moderated by Alison Cuddy of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Performance studies faculty scholar and artist E. Patrick Johnson will sing in the event, and University President Morton Schapiro will reflect on the crucial importance of the arts at Northwestern and in contemporary culture.

Free and open to the public, the Arts Circle Celebration events will take place outdoors (weather permitting) with the exception of the 1 p.m. keynote event in the University’s Ethel M. Barber Theater.

Weather Alert 

In the event of rain, outdoor events will be moved indoors to the following Evanston campus venues, as noted: Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive; the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts’ Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive, and Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive; Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive; Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary Chapel, 2121 Sheridan Road; John J. Louis Hall, 1877 Campus Drive; University Hall, 1887 Sheridan Road; Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, 1937 Sheridan Road; and Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road. 

Dance performances will take place atop the Block Museum of Art, Norris Center, Josephine Louis Theater and Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, 70 Arts. Circle Drive. If it rains, they will take place in Norris Center’s Louis Room

Free Parking

Since the Arts Circle will be closed to motor traffic June 4, free parking will be available in Northwestern’s Segal Visitors Center Parking Garage, 1841 Sheridan Road, located at the south entrance to the Evanston campus.


Sunrise (5:15 a.m.)

  • “Tea Project” installation of 779 tea cups, Arts Green, South Lawn. (Rain location: Norris Center, ground floor). The “Tea Project” is an ongoing dialogue that traverses a variety of landscapes. From the tea sipped at a family gathering, to a cage in Guantanamo Bay, to a motor pool in Iraq, tea is not only a favored drink but a shared moment that transcends cultural divides and systems of oppression. Since sharing a cup of tea can transcend cultural divides, on June 4 these relationships will be explored through Tea Performances at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Tea Teach-ins at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. (Details below). More information at

9 a.m.

  • Inflation of Otto Piene’s sculpture “Grand Rapids Carousel,” Arts Green, North Lawn. (Rain location: Garrett Chapel). The Block Museum of Art will offer a rare opportunity to witness the inflating of Otto Piene’s “Grand Rapid’s Carousel,” a 40-foot-long bright red sculpture, which features multiple human-like arms and legs. The inflatable was first exhibited at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and Arts Festival in 1979 and was featured in Charlotte Moorman’s 15th Annual Avant Garde Festival in 1980. Piene (1928-2014) was a German kinetic artist and co-founder of the materially focused ZERO avant-garde group. A pioneer of media art, Piene worked with light and motion. He is best known for his “Sky Art” projects, harnessing light for use in outdoor settings. Today, his works can be found in museum collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. (Piene’s sculpture will be on view all day.) 

10:30 a.m. (and repeated at 4 p.m.)

  • Tea Project: Tea Performance, Arts Circle, South Lawn. (Rain location: Norris Center, ground floor). A performance and discussion that explores war, detention, love and tea. Tea Performances utilize the space created when someone sits, sips and reflects over a cup of tea to ask questions about one’s relationship to the world: a world that’s filled with dehumanization, war and destruction; a world that’s filled with moments of beauty, love and humanity. (This 90-minute event is limited to 30 guests with as many observers as interested).

11 a.m. 

  • Cello Mini-Happenings in four locations outside the Arts Circle, including at The Rock outside University Hall; on the porch of Deering Library’s main entrance; by the door to Harris Hall and by the south entrance of Norris Center. (Rain locations: inside these four buildings). The Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music will contribute to the Arts Circle Celebration with an homage to avant-garde cellist Charlotte Moorman. Small groups of cellists from the Bienen School and other participating schools in Chicago and the North Shore area will do pop-up performances throughout Northwestern’s Evanston campus.

11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

  • Actors Gymnasium Performances, Arts Green. (Rain location: inside Norris Center, ground floor). Actors Gymnasium artists (unicyclists and aerialists) will demonstrate their circus and physical theater skills outdoors from different levels around the Arts Circle lawn. Enjoy the spectacle or take a turn yourself. The Actors Gymnasium has provided circus and physical theater classes, awe-inspiring event entertainment and family-friendly circus shows in Evanston and the Chicago area for 20 years. The organization also has helped people of all ages and experiences learn to fly -- “physically, emotionally and creatively.” 


  • Trisha Brown Dance Ensemble’s first of two performances of “Roof Piece,” on the rooftops of the Block Museum of Art, Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, Norris Center and the Wirtz Center’s Josephine Louis Theater, which surround the Arts Circle. (Rain location: Norris Center, Louis Room). The world-renowned Trisha Brown Dance Company will perform a site-specific, improvisatory work “Roof Piece.” Working in direct relation to the architectural features of the Arts Circle location, the 12-member ensemble will recombine and adapt material from Brown’s early repertoire into a 20-minute rooftop spectacle. The Trisha Brown Dance Company allows dance to be freed from the constructions of the conventional stage and be performed in unexpected places, which drastically diminishes the distance between the dance and its audience. The performance will be repeated at 3 p.m. More on Trisha Brown and her dancers is available online.

Noon to 5 p.m.

  • Foley Artist Sound Performance, John J. Louis Hall mixing studio (rain or shine). The 20-minute workshop will be repeated on the half-hour. (NOTE: The sound studio can only accommodate up to 20 people at a time.) Foley is the reproduction of sound effects that are added to film, video and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality. The public will have an opportunity to help create special sound effects with two renowned Foley artists -- Goro Koyama and Sandra Fox. The duo will create “Sound in the Dark.” Join them in the darkened sound studio and hear a story told entirely with sound effects, using the amazing capacities of the new state-of-the-art Sound Production Studio in Louis Hall. Koyama and Fox are based at Footsteps Post-Production Sound in Canada.

1 p.m.

  • Keynote Conversation on “Why Art Matters” at the Ethel M. Barber Theater (Rain or shine). The celebration’s keynote event will take place in the 440-seat Barber Theatre. The program includes a talk by University President Morton Schapiro. The event begins with the School of Communication’s E. Patrick Johnson, professor of performance studies, singing a celebratory welcome. Panelists will include Thomas Bradshaw, associate professor of radio/television/film; the Bienen School’s Victor Goines, director and professor of jazz studies; Chicago novelist and poet Stuart J. Dybek, Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences’ department of English; and Martha Tedeschi, deputy director of art and research at the Art Institute of Chicago. The panel discussion will be moderated by Alison Cuddy, program director of the Chicago Humanities Festival and former host of Chicago Public Radio’s “Eight Forty-Eight” weekday news magazine show.

2:15 p.m.

  • Cello Happening, Arts Green, South Lawn. (Rain location: lower level of the double-decker lakefront South Garage). More than 150 cellists will gather to pay homage to avant-garde cellist Charlotte Moorman, whose life and work is featured in the current Block Museum exhibition. Cellists from Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music and more than 50 participating schools, from elementary school to graduate level, will converge on the South Lawn of the Arts Circle for a special group performance of works by Saint-Saens and John Cage and a world premiere by Bienen School faculty member Jay Alan Yim, associate professor of composition and music technology. The Cello Happening will be led by Bienen School cello professor Hans Jørgen Jensen. Jensen is the recipient of numerous honors and awards in his native Denmark and internationally. Jensen has performed as a soloist with the Copenhagen Symphony, Danish Radio Orchestra, Irish Radio Orchestra and Basel Symphony Orchestra. His students have won prizes in numerous national and international competitions. Northwestern’s cello ensemble was recognized by The New York Times on a list of the “Best Music Recordings of 2015.”

2:30 p.m. (and repeated at 5:30 p.m.)

  • Tea Project: Tea Teach-in, Arts Circle, South Lawn. (Rain location: Norris Center, ground floor.) This hourlong event is limited to 50 guests with as many observers as are interested. This presentation and facilitated discussion investigates the connections between Chicago-based institutions and the perpetuation of torture and extralegal detention at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. These relationships will be drawn out through personal narratives of veterans, academics, community members and others.

3 p.m. 

  • Trisha Brown Dance Company’s second 20-minute performance atop the rooftops of the Arts Circle’s Block Museum, Ryan Center, Norris Center and Josephine Louis Theater. (Rain location: Norris Center, Louis Room)

4 p.m.            

  • Tea Performance, Arts Green, South Lawn. (Rain location: Norris Center, ground floor) See 10:30 a.m. event description.
  • Q&A session with choreographer Trisha Brown at the Block Museum (rain or shine)

5:30 p.m.

  • “Tea Project” Tea Teach-in and Deinstallation (returning the cups) concluded by sunset (8:22 p.m.) Arts Circle, South Lawn. (Rain location: Norris Center.) See 2:30 p.m. event description.


The June 4 celebration wouldn’t be complete without a visit to “A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s-1980s” at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art in the heart of the Arts Circle.

The Moorman exhibit, which runs through July 17, 2016, is the first major exhibition exploring the art and impact of Moorman. Charlotte Moorman (1933-1991) was a groundbreaking, rule-bending artist, musician and advocate for the experimental art of her time. The show examines Moorman’s life, her work, her influence and the vast network of artists across creative fields that were her collaborators in the 1960s through the 1980s. 

Among the rave reviews of the exhibit on the avant-garde cellist, the Chicago Tribune said, “The Block has done a thrilling job, mounting a show that feels like a cross between an archive and a multimedia spectacular, and the curators have been shrewd in choosing Moorman as their central figure.”

The Block also is hosting Don't Throw Anything Out: Charlotte Moorman's Archive,” through July 17, in the Katz Gallery, an auxiliary exhibition that offers a rare look at Moorman’s private world.

In conjunction with the Block exhibitions, Northwestern’s Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections is presenting “Charlotte’s Scene: Archives of the Avant Garde at Northwestern Libraries,” through July 17. The exhibit features highlights from four University archives related to Charlotte Moorman and her times: John Cage, Dick Higgins, Jim McWilliams and the ONCE Festival.

Block Museum visitors can also explore Weinberg College’s department of art theory and practice’s “Lake Cream: MFA Thesis Exhibition 2016.” This year’s show presents work by Lilli Carré, Max Guy, Erin Hayden, Dan Miller and David Sprecher on view in the Block’s Alsdorf Gallery through June 19. 

A full schedule of June 4 Arts Circle Celebration events, event descriptions and artist biographies are available online on Northwestern’s new Arts Circle website.