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U-Nite arts and culture celebration returns to Crocker Art Museum for 10th anniversary

Sacramento State’s signature public arts and culture event began as a dream.

Not an aspirational, metaphorical one. An actual one.

“I had a dream about a faculty showcase but staged at the Crocker (Art Museum) and about the bubble of the campus, Sac State, and the Crocker, and then there was this rainbow going back and forth between them, a bridge between us, like a golden bridge from campus to downtown,” said Elaine Gale, a Communication Studies professor who at the time was working frequently with the museum.

Elaine Gale, Communication Studies professor and the creator of U-Nite.
Elaine Gale, a Communication Studies professor, literally dreamed up the U-Nite arts and culture showcase, which celebrates its 10th anniversary and a return to in-person festivities on Nov. 10. (Courtesy Elaine Gale)

“Afterwards, it was like, how could we create that golden bridge of energy and collaboration between this community institution and this educational institution?”

The golden bridge from Gale’s dream led to a real event called U-Nite, the University’s arts and culture showcase that will celebrate its 10th anniversary on Nov. 10. The celebration will also mark a return to in-person programing at the Crocker Art Museum, bringing the event back into the heart of Sacramento for the first time since before the start of the pandemic.

U-Nite is a key part of Sac State’s “anchor university” initiative, said Sheree Meyer, dean of the College of Arts and Letters.

“The anchor university initiative is about moving ‘beyond J Street’ and engaging our neighboring communities in meaningful experiences,” said Meyer. “U-Nite brings together two of Sacramento’s anchor arts and educational organizations – the Crocker Art Museum and Sacramento State’s College of Arts and Letters – to unite, create, educate, and celebrate.”

Meyer is always quick, however, to emphasize that U-Nite began as a grassroots faculty event. It was Gale who spent the fall of 2011 turning her dream into a reality by recruiting over 40 of her fellow Arts and Letters faculty members from across all disciplines to put on the first showcase the following spring.

The eclectic nature of U-Nite’s lineup is intentionally designed to showcase all areas of the college. That means theater and dance and music performances, but also author talks and poetry readings, presentations on the evolution of baseball stadium design and on the history of Japanese puppetry, the debut of a student-developed audio guide of the Crocker’s permanent collection, and short film screenings.

In addition, this year’s event will include a retrospective panel featuring 10 of the original U-Nite faculty participants talking about how the arts and their own artistic vision and process have changed over the past decade.

For Philip Flickinger, chair of Sac State’s Theater and Dance department, the 10th anniversary of U-Nite is an opportunity to revisit and reimagine a dance piece he presented for the event’s second edition. His “Shifting Sands” duet, performed in 2013 by two opposite-sex dancers, will this year add two additional performances, one featuring two male-identifying dancers, and one featuring two female-identifying dancers.

“I'm happy U-Nite is still going strong, and I'm just delighted at all the new connections and the relationships that I've made through the event." -- Elaine Gale, Sac State Communication Studies professor, creator of U-Nite

Flickinger said U-Nite “has been an artistic endeavor that allows me to explore more ideas and realize concepts that I otherwise would not have pursued for performance.”

“I truly love the opportunity to experience the creative side of Sacramento State that allows the artists to speak their own voice,” he said. “At U-Nite, you get to truly see the individual artists introducing themselves again and again with their personal creative research, and it is a fantastic means for the community to see the amazing quality of work that Sacramento State faculty create.”

Gale is thrilled to see her brainchild reach its 10th anniversary. Faculty at university campuses, she said, can sometimes inadvertently wall themselves off from their colleagues. Events like U-Nite can break down those walls, allowing faculty to experience the work of their peers, come back to campus more connected, and create new collaborations with the community.

“I'm happy U-Nite is still going strong, and I'm just delighted at all the new connections and the relationships that I've made through the event,” she said.

“I'm proud of this project and of my peers. I worked hard to get it up and running, from my dream into a reality. This project was always about love, about creating community, celebrating creativity, and about a deep love for the arts. My colleagues enjoy it. The community enjoys it. It touches my heart.”

Members of the Sac State campus community attend the 2019 U-Nite arts and culture showcase at Crocker Art Museum.

Sac State plays a major role in Sacramento's vibrant cultural scene, and each year the University takes center stage during U-Nite at the Crocker Art Museum. At the last in-person U-Nite on Nov. 21, 2019, seen above, Arts and Letters faculty and students showcased their talents in the heart of downtown. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

 

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About Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales joined the Sac State communications team in 2017 as a writer and editor. He previously worked at San Francisco State University and as a newspaper reporter and editor. He enjoys local beer, Bay Area sports teams, and spending time outdoors with his family and dog.

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