04 July 2024 | Story Jacky Tshokwe | Photo Supplied
Launch of the Artists in Residency  2024
Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Free State (UFS), joined in celebrating the power of art and its limitless potential for the university.

The University of the Free State (UFS) is thrilled to announce the successful launch of its groundbreaking Artist in Residency Programme. This momentous event, held on 27 June 2024, marked the beginning of an inspiring new chapter in the university's commitment to fostering creativity, innovation, and the arts within its academic community.

The event was graced by esteemed guests, including the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Francis Petersen; Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof Vasu Reddy; Dean of the Faculty of The Humanities, Prof Mogomme Masoga; and our inaugural artist in residence, Mike van Graan. Their presence underscored the significance of this occasion and the vital role the arts play in enriching our academic environment.

Prof Petersen's welcome address highlighted the vision behind this initiative, emphasising the university's commitment to broadening its impact beyond academia and fostering relationships that span various disciplines, including developments from STEM to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics). He lauded the programme as a beacon of creativity and innovation, set to thrive within the UFS community.

“This launch marks the beginning of a vibrant and enriching journey for the UFS Artist in Residency Programme. We eagerly anticipate the collaboration and the creation of a space where creativity thrives, ideas flourish, and imaginations soar. With artists like Mike van Graan leading the way, we are confident that this programme will serve as a bridge between academia and the arts, fostering dialogue and creativity that transcend traditional boundaries,” Prof Petersen expressed his gratitude.

The highlight of the event was undoubtedly the introduction of Mike van Graan, a distinguished independent artist and playwright. Van Graan, with an impressive career spanning 36 plays and extensive contributions to cultural policy and artist network development, has been a pivotal figure in the cultural landscape of South Africa and beyond. His dedication to cultural activism and artistic creation is widely recognised, and his insights during the event provided a profound perspective on the importance of supporting the arts, particularly theatre.

Van Graan shared his vision for the future of theatre and drama in South Africa, emphasising the need for a supportive and recognising arts minister. He expressed hope for a future where talent and policy merge to create a thriving cultural sector. His thoughts on the relevance and impact of the residency programme on both the industry and the academic environment resonated deeply with the audience.

The programme director, Prof Anthea van Jaarsveld, guided the event seamlessly, introducing the staged readings that showcased the incredible talent nurtured during the residency. The first reading, an excerpt from The Good White, delved into contemporary issues such as race, social justice, and the complexities of human relationships against the backdrop of the 2015/16 student protests. The second reading, Return of the Ancestors, paid homage to the satirical South African political play, Woza Albert, exploring themes of democracy and sacrifice through the return of figures such as Steve Biko and Neil Aggett.

As the event drew to a close, heartfelt gratitude was extended to all who contributed to the success of this launch. Special thanks were extended to the UFS leadership, the Dean of the Faculty of The Humanities, the office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Department of Communication and Marketing’s staff, the staff in the office of the Vice-Chancellor, and the various outsourced companies for their presence and contributions.

“Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating the power of art and the limitless potential it holds for our university and beyond. Together, we will continue to create spaces for dialogue, understanding, and inspiration through the transformative power of art,” Prof Van Jaarsveld said in closing the ceremony. 

#UFSArts #ArtistInResidency #MikeVanGraan #Creativity #Innovation #STEAM

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