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Arts & Culture

50 Years of SEE-ing Sensational Shows

Delve Through the Decades as Student Programming Board Celebrates Anniversary With Weeklong Art Attack

By Annie Krakower

Collage of programs, posters and ticket stubs from SEE shows

Photos courtesy of University Archives

Student Entertainment Events (SEE), celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has brought star-studded acts to UMD over the years, including Aretha Franklin, Chuck Berry, Kanye West, The Roots, Cyndi Lauper and many more.

From Bruce Springsteen to Big Sean, Aretha Franklin to the All-American Rejects, the Beach Boys to Bette Midler—the past five decades have featured a chart-topping range of musicians, comedians, speakers and more parading their talents across University of Maryland stages.

Behind the scenes for each of those hundreds of performances was Student Entertainment Events (SEE), UMD’s undergraduate-run programming board that since 1971 has kept the campus community entertained and informed. Now, as part of the group’s 50th anniversary celebration, it’s hosting a weeklong hybrid version of its annual year-end cultural extravaganza, Art Attack.

Typically a daylong affair with everything from petting zoos to inflatable play equipment and capped by an evening concert, the event changed formats this year due to COVID-19. Today through Friday will be jam-packed with both in-person and virtual activities, including DIY crafts, game shows, outdoor movies and a student variety show. To add to the milestone merriment, each day will feature a different decade theme, starting, as SEE did, in the ’70s.

“We went all-out for what we could do during the pandemic,” said Nolan Marks ’21, SEE’s multimedia director. “What better way on our 50th anniversary than to kind of take each day to commemorate the decades that brought us to this point, so that we can do even more going forward?” 

After the weeklong festival, SEE will keep the celebration going with the May 10 premiere of “50 Years: The SEE Story,” a documentary feature film chronicling its history—and current members’ quest to capture it. The film—directed, produced and edited by Marks—expands on miniseries episodes released throughout the semester and will be screened on YouTube following a Zoom Q&A and reception.

To kick off your Art Attack anniversary adventure, dive back through the decades and get a sense of SEE from directors past and present:

SEE, founded in 1971 as the University Program Board before becoming Student Entertainment Enterprises in 1976, started its first decade with a bang, with headliners like Stevie Wonder, Queen and James Taylor. The sold-out Taylor show helped members gain confidence in their programming prowess.

“It showed New York that the University of Maryland can put on a major show,” University Program Board Director Mike Hession said in a 1973 Diamondback article.

The first Art Attack in 1984 featured mostly UMD talent, such as the university jazz ensemble, the Gymkana troupe and Terps from the dance department, performing on McKeldin Mall. (In later years, the event’s concert changed venues to Maryland Stadium and Xfinity Center). SEE also brought several well-known outside performers to College Park, including Ozzy Osbourne, the Grateful Dead and a rapidly rising Irish rock band called U2.

“The kind of skills that students gain are really invaluable,” Jean Spivey, the group’s marketing director from 1983-84, told current SEE members during their 50th-anniversary outreach to alums. “Interacting with so many different people, and, you know, running a business, because we always felt we were running a business, just the fast-paced environment.”

SEE booked Art Attacks featuring the Ramones, Run DMC and local ska band the Checkered Cabs, ending the decade by changing the “E” initial in its name to stand for “Events” in 1999.

“You can create anything that you want … there are all these different ways that you can bring something to life that you dream of,” Pi-Isis Ankhra, SEE’s cultural events director from 1996-97, told current members.

The aughts included acts like Outkast, the Black Eyed Peas and Kanye West, but SEE also kept a focus on Terp talent with open mic nights and coffeehouse poetry and music forums.

“That’s a large part of what SEE does—bring other talents on campus,” Attia Goheer, SEE union cultural director, told The Diamondback in 2001. “But it’s such a large university and we have so much talent here that we should try to utilize that talent rather than always trying to bring outside talent here.”

Musical acts such as the Chainsmokers, Big Sean and Lil Yachty headlined Art Attacks, and popular comedian John Mulaney capped SEE’s decade with a 2019 Homecoming show in Xfinity Center. 

“SEE essentially became my life,” Catalia Mejia, SEE president and special events director from 2015-17, said in a miniseries episode. “There was a running joke within my friend group and the people that knew me around campus saying that if I wasn’t in my dorm or in classes, I was in the SEE office.”

The pandemic has forced SEE to rethink its programming but didn’t stop the group from providing Terps with entertainment, including online game shows, SEE Live@5 Facebook events, and virtual shows with performers like singer-songwriter and producer Finneas O’Connell and comedian Hasan Minhaj.

“If anyone can take anything away from this story, it’s just the power in a community believing in their abilities and talents to do something,” said Reines Maliski, incoming SEE president. “Just find a community and create something and be proud of it and help others along the way.”



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