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By Emily Mokler – Contributing Writer

UMF students gathered in the alleyways of downtown Farmington to create and perform art as part of the Water Bear Confabulum, an alternative arts festival hosted by the UMF Art Gallery.

The event included a 5k run, with proceeds benefitting local high school students attending UMF who have an interest in both the arts and the environment.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

Visitors saw the downtown change with art unfolding from UMF students and professionals. Students in a Drawing class drew each other in chalk, an exercise known as blind contouring. Abby Sanborn, a freshman Creative Writing, and Art major was one of the students drawing in the alleyway next to Renys with chalk. Each figure had distinct blocks of color.

Student working on a mural near the alleyway by the Homestead Bar & Bakery on Broadway. Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

“The point of the exercise is to draw what our eyes see, not what our mind sees,” Sanborn said as she rubbed the chalk into the wall, building up the vibrant color.

Following the sound of drums led to students dressed as animals, and statues of animals dressed like humans.  AJ Mae, a freshman, wore a gown made of trash bags and set up an installation using reflective, everyday objects ranging from party masks to CDs.

“Different people see themselves in different places and in different ways,” said Mae. According to Mae, the installation was inspired by how “the media frames how we see ourselves, and distorts our expectations.”

Another alley had large charcoal drawings of landscapes, and visitors were asked to smudge the original work into whatever they wanted with bread. A volunteer spoke about exhibits in Bonney Woods. There were interactive installations about asking for phrases

In Bonney Woods,“The Star-Spangled Banner” was playing faintly on the flute. The student playing the flute, who wore a pair of exaggerated legs in silver fabric in a kneeling position, reflected on the recent protests during pro football games.

Returning to downtown, dozens of other students gathered in the alleyway, participating in performance art. There were students dressed as robots, a rose, a punk with a four-foot high mohawk. One woman handed out kind words painted onto cardboard without saying a word. Another asked people to write down what they said when frustrated and place the words inside the empty head of a sculpted child.

Figures in Homestead Alleyway. Photo Courtesy of Emily Mokler

There was a small black dome in the center of the alleyway with a white sheet splattered with red. Pulling back the sheet revealed small LED candles inside. A hand reached out and said, “Keep your softness” while handing out soft plastic stuffing.

The Water Bear Confabulum surrounded visitors visually, auditorily, and mentally with art. To see more photos, search for “The Water Bear Confabulum” on Facebook.