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U-Nite showcases caliber and breadth of Sac State’s arts and humanities departments

Music was one of the main attractions of Sac State's U-Nite showcase at the Crocker Art Museum on Nov. 9. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

A Music lecturer fills an airy court with the sounds of his saxophone. Down the hall, a Sacramento State professor shares her research into airport security. Upstairs, surrounded by iconic paintings of California landscapes, a newly hired faculty member leads a group in quiet, cross-cultural prayer.

Anyone wandering through the Crocker Art Museum on the evening of Nov. 9 would have been treated to an eclectic -- and impressive -- array of the University’s talent and scholarship.

That variety is exactly the point of U-Nite, an annual showcase from Sac State’s College of Arts and Letters that brings faculty and student work from each of the college’s 10 departments into the heart of downtown Sacramento for the public to experience.

In her opening remarks, Arts and Letters Dean Sheree Meyer focused on the word “and” that joins the two words in the name of her college and that, she said, encapsulate the spirit of U-Nite.

“University night at the Crocker and for the community. Past, present and the future,” Meyer said, repeatedly stressing “and.” “Teaching and scholarship and creative activity. These are the things in which our faculty excel, and it’s ‘and’ that bridges those experiences.”

U-Nite interaction
U-Nite attendees interact among different parts on an exhibit at Crocker Art Museum on Nov. 9. Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

U-Nite, now in its 11th year, filled the Crocker with 36 presentations led by Sac State faculty, from book readings and film screenings to theater, music, and dance performances.

One thing Meyer consistently stresses is that faculty, not administration, was the impetus behind U-Nite’s origins. The event began in 2012 when Elaine Gale, a Communication Studies professor, was looking for a way to collaborate with the Crocker and recruited fellow faculty to share their work at a public event.

Many of those original faculty, including Gale, participated in this year’s event. They were joined by newer faculty eager to take part in what has become the College of Arts and Letters’ signature showcase.

Second-year Music lecturer Sarah Wald was among them. Wald first learned about U-Nite earlier this year and knew she wanted to get involved.

Wald approached her faculty colleagues Cathie Apple, a flautist, and Tim Stanley, a cellist, who agreed to premiere student compositions at the event. Then she recruited two music composition students to create pieces for Appel and Stanley to perform along with her own newly created flute-cello duet.

The result was precisely the type of showcase that U-Nite is designed to feature: students and faculty collaborating to share their expertise and skills for the public to enjoy.

“A lot of us faculty and students are ensconced in the university setting, and within our own discipline it can get very insular,” Wald said. “It's always great to be able to reach a broader public with our research or our creative works or expression of any kind.”

For Stephen Whelan, a senior Music theory and Composition major working in Wald’s studio this semester, having a composition performed publicly at the Crocker was “an opportunity I couldn’t skip on.”

“This is the first time I've had anything of mine performed somewhere that wasn't Capistrano Hall, so that's really exciting,” he said, “I have to go drive downtown and watch my piece get premiered. It's kind of crazy."

U-Nite Path of Prayer
Rey Jeong (right), an assistant Art professor, leads a session in which participants shared prayers in their own languages during the 2023 U-Nite. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Rey Jeong, a first-year assistant professor of Art hired as part of a cohort of social justice-focused faculty, organized the Path of Prayers, a unique event where participants sat in a circle in the Crocker’s ornate “Early California” gallery and took turns whispering prayers in their native language into a tape recorder.

Jeong, who recently began practicing Buddhism following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, said she wanted to share a moment of prayers with people who may have different traditions.

She said she appreciated the platform the Crocker provided for her to share her art, which she typically imbues with social justice issues, and the opportunity to do so off campus.

“Museums can be intimidating or elitist places, but the Crocker museum, through the U-Nite event, they are lowering the bar and inviting people no matter if they are interested in art or not, and they want to have a conversation,” Jeong said.

During and after the event, Meyer pointed out the many other ways Sac State partners with the Crocker, including the museum showcasing student work and allowing students to create audio guides for museum exhibitions.

“It’s powerful for us to share what we have done, what we have learned, and what we have made, beyond J Street,” Meyer said. “The arts and humanities are meant to be public. We address issues of concern to the public; we bring the public together to celebrate what is happening in our communities.

“We are a public university, and as such, we serve the public in ways that extend out from the classroom.”

An exhibit of faculty work will be on display at the Crocker Art Museum through Jan. 14, 2024. For more information, visit the museum website.

U-Nite Jazz
Crocker Art Museum provided a dynamic venue for the varied offerings that came with Sac State's 2023 U-Nite, which highlighted the creativity, artistry and talent of faculty and students. (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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