Students burn wood at Stony Brook's annual Shirley Strum Kenny Arts Festival in the Student Activities Center.  (BOREUM LEE)
Students burn wood at Stony Brook’s annual Shirley Strum Kenny Arts Festival in the Student Activities Center. (BOREUM LEE)

This year’s Shirley Strum Kenny Student Arts Festival kicked off Wednesday just before Campus Life Time, but the students offered more than just art, and a local art gallery showcased art from some of Stony Brook University’s professors.

There was the ROTC station outside, across the SAC plaza from Craft Center stands where volunteers snapped Polaroids of students with masquerade masks  and a tie-dye station that gave out 350 T-shirts to fashionably early students. But the bulk of the opening fair moved inside in anticipation of rain that never came.

The heartbeat of the event pulsed in SAC Ballroom A, even though almost half of the reserved tables were empty. Students who took pictures outside could drop by another Craft Center table and build their own picture frames. Across the room, Stacey Rice, a junior geology major, handed out brushes, paints and rocks for students to decorate their own ‘Rock Babies.’

“I don’t think anyone’s really interested in geology here, but we’re here anyway,” Rice said. “Galaxies and volcanoes can be beautiful art.”


Apparently, a lot of things can be art. Members of the Golden Key Honor Society manned a table full of brown paper bags and markers so students could doodle on them for an upcoming event sponsoring children with cancer. The Comedian’s Guild had a table and so did at least one sorority.

“Dancing is the art,” said Melanie Magdits, a senior environmental humanities major and member of the Stony Brook Belly Dancers, who had their performance postponed for fear of bad weather. “We love this festival. We do it every year.”

The decision to move the bulk of the fair indoors had to be submitted by 1 p.m. Tuesday, said Norm Prusslin of the theatre arts department, who serves as an adviser to the event coordinators.

“To take a chance outside or go inside and make adjustments,” Prusslin said. “We had to adjust the outside performances and reschedule them for later in the week.”


Wednesday’s visible festivities marked the beginning of an annual two to three-week arts festival named for president Samuel Stanley’s predecessor.

“The festival existed prior to [former president Kenny’s expansion of the event] seven years ago, but it was much smaller,” Prusslin said. “She thought there should be some more attention to arts. The festival focused to bring together … students, faculty and clubs.”

Off-campus organizations showed up, too. Gallery North, an art gallery in Setauket less than a mile away from Stony Brook, sent SB alumnus Emily White to promote an exhibition of works by three SBU faculty members—Nobuho Nagasawa, Mel Pekarsky and Howardena Pindell—who will have their work on display until April 26.

Next to White’s booth, Stony Brook librarians Kathleen Maxheimer and Kristen Cinar handed out pins and rubber bracelets to promote students to “get your read on!”

“We didn’t think there’d be this much crafts—this is our first time doing this,” said Maxheimer. “Next year we won’t be so boring.”


If the festival is too boring for anyone, students can head down to the library’s central reading room and grab a book from last year’s Roth Regatta boat, which is full of good reads that do not even need to be checked-out.

Regardless of how artsy the participants were, many of them agreed that being present was a good way to reach out to fellow students and have fun.

“Arts and crafts are not necessarily our key demographic,” said Sergeant Timothy Hunt, from the ROTC. “But anything that goes on, on campus, we want to be a part of.”

Even the hard sciences crowd got into the spirit of things.

“It’s just fun,” said Rice, from the Geology Club, as she sat behind a table flecked with glitter, paint and plastic googly eyes. “Make a mess!”

The festival will wind down on April 29 with an award ceremony and a buffet.


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