SRU’s Kaleidoscope brings colorful view of arts into focus


toddler running under colorful parachute during children's festival

Slippery Rock University’s Kaleidoscope Arts Festival will offer a Children's Day program from noon to 4 p.m., April 22, at SRU's Macoskey Center on Harmony Road. The family-oriented event will offer crafts, games and earth friendly demonstrations.

April 6, 2017

Kaleidoscope Arts Festival 2017 logo

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Admittedly, Deanna Brookens is not a gamer.

But in putting together the schedule for Slippery Rock University's annual Kaleidoscope Arts Festival, the instructor of theatre and festival director likens the task to playing an old school game of "Tetris."

"It is in every way like that," Brookens said with a laugh. "Not only are we paying attention to the availability of the artists and performers and what they can and can't do, but if we're dealing with an event geared toward children, we have to factor in the time of day - it can't be too early or too late - so there are multiple challenges in putting the lineup together, but somehow, just like a puzzle, or 'Tetris,' the pieces manage to fall into place and it all comes together."

This year's event, the 16th annual, takes place April 13-29 and will feature more than 30 dance, theatre, music, literary and visual arts events. It all kicks off with an hour of student art and performances at 12:30 p.m., April 13 at Boozel Dining Hall featuring live music from the SRU Music Therapy Club and an art sale and demo courtesy of the SRU Art Society.

In addition to visiting artists and performers, a variety of student artists and SRU faculty will provide offerings including: a senior dance concert and a variety of music concerts featuring flute, trumpet, euphonium and a jazz festival courtesy of the SRU Jazz Ensemble.

Another highlight will be the addition of "Kaleidoscope on Main," hosted by Slippery Rock Development, Inc., from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 29 on Main Street. The family-friendly, community event will feature various vendors as well as local and SRU-related artists and performances, including: the SRU Potters Guild; Martha Gault Art Society; Spirit Rock Dance Team; Afro Colombian Dance Ensemble; Winter Guard; Jazz Combo; Musical Theatre Society and local favorite, Harmony Road.

While the festival, which is collaboratively put together by an eight-member faculty committee overseen by Brookens, exists for only 17 days each year, the planning that goes into it is nearly a 365-day effort.

Deanna Brookens


"Many members of the committee begin scoping out artists and performers they think would be interesting to host as soon as summer arrives," said Brookens. "When we reconvene in September, we already have a laundry list of ideas ready to go."

One example of that off-season prep is Children's Day performers, the Bright Star Touring Theatre. Scouted by Brookens almost a year ago, the troupe was founded 14 years ago by David Ostergaard, an Emmy-winning actor whose work has been featured at The Cannes Film Festival and on Showtime in the Academy Award-winning short, "Two Soldiers."

At Kaleidoscope, the company will present "Gus Goes Green: A STEM Adventure." The show, geared toward pre-K through 5th grade children, tells the tale of Gus, a giant dog puppet, who leads audiences on a STEM-inspired adventure around the globe. Gus uses clever resources to find creative solutions for a thirsty man in the desert, a wacky inventor and a toy maker among others. Audience volunteers join Gus on stage to engineer a device for gathering water, build a unique toy from recycled materials and more. By the end of the play, Gus and his friends have used science, technology, engineering and math to find smart solutions to real-life issues. This show is designed to encourage young people to help the Earth through recycling, energy conservation and creative thinking.

"I love working with kids and bringing the arts to local children," Brookens said. "I think it is so important for their psychological and social wellbeing, their creativity, and can really help them in school. I feel as though you can't overstate the importance of the arts to children. Children's Day - for me - is one of my favorites. I love how excited they are when they arrive and how dynamic the day can be for them. For me, that event in particular, is so invigorating.

"At the end of the day, everyone on our committee has the same goal when we're looking at who or what to invite and that is enhancing the culture and community of the campus."

One of those enhancements is taking advantage of SRU's Common Hour to share additional presentations with students rushing through the Smith Student Center.

"Utilizing that time period allows us to reach an even wider audience and tap into one that is already gathered at a particular venue," said Brookens. "If we are able to pair an interesting event for that hour and thereby provide something for the students to enjoy or that will make them think, that's something we can be proud of."

To that end, Brookens pointed out the addition of Gerard Tonti, a Pittsburgh native and internationally acclaimed artist who paints with coffees and teas from around the world. Tonti will conduct an artist talk at 12:30 p.m., April 18 in the Smith Student Center Theatre, followed by an art demo and Q&A session at 2:15 p.m. in the Art Building, Room 006.

"Painting with coffee and tea is a very complicated process," Tonti has said. "I began using simple washes, treating the stains as a water medium on watercolor paper. As the art progressed, I wanted to challenge myself and continue to experiment with various types of teas in order to achieve a wide range of color and tone. This all led to a completely new chemical process of creating paint from these stains through years of research and trial and error experiments.

"Getting the colors to keep their natural pigment without fading due to oxidation and ultraviolet light exposure has been difficult to achieve. Each tea and coffee used has a unique chemical composition and has to be treated differently. I must think about how each color and binder will react when mixed together. This process has resulted in a new and exciting medium.

"The process is always evolving."

So too are the offerings at this year's festival said Brookens, pointing out a pair of "can't miss" events.

"Our keynote artist, Ekiwah Adler-Belendez, is from Mexico City and we are so excited to have him," she said. "He is young, he is exciting, he is inspiring and a beautiful poet."

Adler-Belendez, who suffers from cerebral palsy, will offer at student poetry workshop at 10 a.m., April 20 in the Smith Student Center Ballroom; followed by a live performance of his piece, "Love on Wheels," at 5 p.m. in the Smith Student Center Theater.

"Love on Wheels" is an intimate and funny poetry reading about the challenges, joys and complexities of life in a wheelchair. The poems seek to turn Adler-Belendez's wheelchair into a symbol where audiences can see the unexpected gifts of our limitations, whether we claim to have a disability or not. The reading is also a celebration of some of the poets Adler-Belendez admires - Octavio Paz, Jaime Sabines and Rosario Castellanos - rendered in both English and Spanish. That will be followed by his teaming up with Greg Josselyn for a presentation of their original piece, "The Play: a performance on travel, friendship, and the nature of art," about two friends documenting their experiences into a stage play as the lines between life and art disintegrate.

For mature audiences, Jane Doe (formerly "We Are Steubenville"), a participatory theatre show reflecting on rape culture in our communities, will perform at 7 p.m., April 19 in the Smith Student Center Ballroom.

Jane Doe features one performer leading a public reading of a rape case trial transcript as audience members read as witnesses and lawyers, with pauses for the audience to text in their responses which are projected live. The hard hitting trial is interwoven with frank and funny filmed documentary interviews with young people from across America and New Zealand reflecting on sexual empowerment, consent and feminism, which are virtually voiced by the Jane Doe performer live and in sync with the projected video.

For more details and a complete schedule of events, visit:; or follow the Kaleidoscope Arts Festival on Facebook (; Twitter (@sruartsfest) and Instagram (sruartsfest).

MEDIA CONTACT: Robb King | 724.738.2199 |