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Arts & Culture

10 Creative Ways to Celebrate NextNOW Fest’s First Decade

Terps-Centric Arts Extravaganza to Feature Nearly 60 Exhibitions, Performances, Activities

By Jessica Weiss ’05

students dance and lights shine at silent disco

A crowd at 2022's NextNOW Fest bounces and gyrates in silence to a variety of beats from three separate live DJs. The nine-day arts festival, starting today, features a wide range of performances and exhibitions both on and off campus.

Photo by Dylan Singleton

“Bathe” in the meditative sound of gongs. Lose yourself in artistically crafted virtual worlds. Take in comedy and music by emerging and breakout touring artists. 

These are just a few of the ways to experience NextNOW Fest, the University of Maryland’s arts experience that begins today. To mark the festival’s 10th anniversary in 2023, staff and students have planned nearly 60 free performances, art installations and activities on and off campus over the next two weeks.

“It’s multifaceted, multidimensional—a way to start the year off with a bang in a creative fashion,” said Nyomi Fox ’24, a psychology major and arts leadership minor who’s one of four student artistic planning fellows helping to curate the event alongside professional staff. “Art takes so many forms and NextNOW is so interdisciplinary. Anyone will be able to see themselves in an artistic space at the festival.”


Presented and produced by The Clarice, NextNOW Fest is the result of partnerships with UMD student-led groups, academic departments and local and touring artists. It’s supported by Arts for All, a campuswide initiative that aims to broaden the footprint of the arts across campus and galvanize collaborations between the arts, technology and social justice, and is part of the Terps After Dark initiative, which supports late-night events in the first six weeks of the fall semester.

Here are 10 festival highlights you won’t want to miss:

1. Kick-off with comedy
Through a partnership with local comedy production group Comedy Bonfyre, helmed by Ambi Narula ’20, NextNOW Fest opens on a rollicking note. A stand-up comedy show at The Hall CP, a restaurant and event venue in the university’s Discovery District, will feature Netflix’s “The Comedy Lineup’s” Emma Willmann and “The Late Late Show’s” Dylan Adler; it will be hosted by D.C. comedian Kim Villamera.

2. Weave yourself into a “human loom”
During an immersive workshop and performance, local artist Alyssa Imes MFA ’22 will weave together a large, circular artwork using fabric held by participants. During the festival, Imes will also unveil her public sculpture “Chill Bloom,” a hammock-like structure intended to be a “relaxing place to recharge” for students and staff. The outdoor work at the corner of Campus Drive and Preinkert Drive was selected through an open call in Spring 2023 organized by undergraduates enrolled in Associate Professor Abigail McEwen’s “Public Art” course.

3. Visit an exhibition
Several exhibitions are on display throughout the festival. The UMD Art Gallery in the Parren J. Mitchell Art-Sociology Building will feature Brooklyn-based artist Coralina Rodriguez Meyer’s “mother mold” sculptures, addressing themes related to birthing and reproductive justice; it will also feature sculptures, masks and other expressive works of African art donated to the Art Gallery by collectors including Gilbert Ph.D. ’72 and Jean ’71 Jackson. South Florida-based Natalia Chavarría's thought-provoking video “Conversation” will be on display in the building’s Video in The Atrium space, and the Stamp Gallery presents "What We Do After: CAPP New Arrivals 2023," an exhibition of nine artworks by seven emerging and mid-career artists acquired by the university’s Contemporary Art Purchasing Program.

Ricky Montgomery
Ricky Montgomery

4. Take a “sound bath”
Breathe, move, meditate and rest to the hypnotic vibrations of a gong, provided by local artist Naoco Wowsugi. Two presentations—one dedicated to “expression” and the other to “transcendence”—were organized in conjunction with local visual art curator M Aragon ’19, the exhibitions programming coordinator at VisArts in Rockville, Md.

5. Peruse the art marketplace
Fourteen student and alum artists will display and sell their works outside The Clarice, from books and zines to stickers and crocheted items. Support local small businesses and take home a NextNOW memento from vendors like The Burrow's Garden, DFengShop and E.Ozie Studios.

6. Explore immersive installations blending art and technology
UMD’s immersive media design (IMD) major teaches students to use technologies like virtual and augmented reality, computer graphics, 3D modeling and more. At both the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering and The Clarice, festivalgoers can experience projects developed by students during an IMD-sponsored summer incubator. For instance, Danika Perez ’24 and Mari Ortega ’24’s “Signal of Life” video game allows players to experience a day in the life of service workers in Asia, while Truc Vy Vo ’25’s “Virtual Bloom” immersive projection reflects on digital relationships during the COVID quarantine, using a 3D camera to track viewers’ bodies in space.

7. Let off steam
We all feel the pressure from time to time. A Mobile Rage Room truck located in The Clarice courtyard will allow participants—outfitted in provided protective gear—to release it by smashing glass bottles and plates.

Sudan Archives
Sudan Archives

8. Have another round of laugh-out-loud comedy
Maryland Night Live is a group of UMD students who write and perform a comedy show inspired by “Saturday Night Live.” Performances from other student groups like Sketchup, The Bureau and The Hysterics will aim to keep attendees chuckling.

9. Tune into touring musical artists
Catch performances by three boundary-defying musical acts all in one night: Alt-pop artist Ricky Montgomery will open the evening on stage in The Clarice courtyard, followed by violinist and singer-songwriter Sudan Archives. R&B artist Raveena will close the evening.

10. Dance to your own beat
Grab a set of wireless headphones and listen to one of three live DJs—including one from UMD’s own Terrapin Record Label—playing wildly different musical styles at the crowd favorite Silent Disc-Glo, presented in partnership with Student Entertainment Events. Those without headphones can experience the surreal effect of a party full of people dancing in apparent silence to different beats.

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