CSUCI’s Art Under the Stars unites students from all departments

By Michael Aushenker

Get set to watch the arts and sciences collide! Friday, May 6, marks the fifth year of Art Under the Stars (AUTS), an open-to-the-public multimedia event generated from California State University Channel Islands’ Performing Arts department that, as of this year, will be cross-campus inclusive.

Assistant Professor of Performing Arts Heather Castillo, who’s been teaching at CSUCI for six years, oversees the program, which this year features 10 presentations uniting students campuswide from different disciplines — not just the arts but biology, medicine and engineering.

Capitalizing on CSUCI’s academic theme this year, the show’s loose motif is “Revolution.” “It’s vague purposely to let the students explore what it means to them,” Castillo said. Students created 80 percent of the event’s original audio, visual and theatrical content, which includes a musical revue and segments integrating performance and research. “This is not just a performing arts event, it’s a multimedia presentation,” Castillo said. “There is nothing like this that I know of on any other California campus. To have an entire campus come together is unique.”

Getting to this year’s “Revolution” has been, well, an evolution. Initially, AUTS was merely a concert showcasing Castillo’s Performing Arts students. Year 2 introduced a video presentation partnered with the art. The third AUTS installment included a political science major riffing about transgender abuse. The fourth year involved various media, still generated mainly from Castillo’s Performing Arts department. 

“This year, it’s different,” the assistant professor said. “It’s truly campus-integrated this year. . . . We really wanted our content to come from other creative ideas across the campus. People presented different ideas.”

People such as the ornithology students of Assistant Professor Allison Alvarado: Birds and their migration patterns inspired the moves Castillo’s dancers will perform. “Students working on that research informed one of the dance classes and media classes,” Castillo said. 

“When Dr. Alvarado first told us about the project and what she needed help with, I knew the research would be slightly out of the ordinary in comparison to other projects,” said sophomore biology major Shawna Brown. “The unique nature of the research project itself is what drew me in; to contribute to the creation of the dance has been an enriching experience.”

“It is amazing to see what the students put forward, how they take this research and draw you in and interest and entertain and engage and educate you,” said Castillo. “I love the sharing of ideas, watching everyone grow, including myself. I feel so safe in these future leaders’ hands. They are amazing and fearless.”

She added that they’re always looking for new ways to present research in fresh, dynamic ways. In fact, this year, there’s even an interactive component: a downloadable program for your mobile device to provide additional information and resources on the presentations. “So make sure you’re fully charged,” Castillo said, laughing.

Art Under the Stars begins at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 6, at California State University, Channel Islands, on the Broome Library lawn. For more information visit http://artsunderthestars.cikeys.com.