The University of Chicago's 2nd Oldest RSO

This page is a work in progress. UChicago archival research is in process.


Fota begins


During the 1950s, arts programming at The University of Chicago was limited. With regards to formalized institutions, The Smart Museum of Art did not exist and The Court Theater was just getting started. In relation to academic offerings, UChicago offered neither an MFA nor a BFA nor a cinema media studies major.

Artistic UChicago students sought to take action by forming Festival of the Arts, a week-long festival during Spring Quarter to offer artists an opportunity to showcase talents to the campus community. 




Festival of the Arts became an annual tradition sanctioned by The University of Chicago in the 1970s. With the new found ability to receive university funding, FOTA became capable of supporting a ten-day on campus festival. Each day of the festival facilitated a unique event. Past events included Conductor Erich Leinsdorf delivering a speech, "The divorce of symphony and opera," impromptu Shakespearean productions in Hutchinson Court and traditional folk dance happenings in the quad. 

The 1970s also welcomed a Festival of the Arts rebranding: FOTA was groovy and thriving!




The 1980s brought challenges for Festival of the Arts. Struggles began when the Finance Committee refused to fund "Cow on the Quad." The "Cow on the Quad" was event dedicated to allowing a cow corraled on the Quad. While FOTA felt that this was a harmless way to poke a little fun at the self-consciously serious establishment and give the students "a story to tell friends at dinner," the University disapproved and temporarily cut FOTA funding. Such an issue serves as a testament that within capitalist modes of production, artists can be bound as cultural producers. Limited financial opportunities can constrain creativity, forcing artists to compromise by proposing works that perpetuate dominant values rather than explore materiality, challenge existing ideals or bring light to under represented issues - simply in an effort to receive funds and continue their artistic practices. 


FOTA modernizes


Through the early 2000s, FOTA developed the robust foundation that supports the organization today. Partnering with leading arts entities such as Logan Center for the Arts and Smart Museum of Art has allowed FOTA to reach audiences of over 1,000 students and Hyde Park community members. Programming has expanded beyond one single week to include arts celebrations across the year - from an Arts Bazaar to CathARTsis Arts Workshops in Hallowed Grounds and Harper Cafe to Sight x Sound and Hot Chocolate Night. FOTA sincerely appreciates the assistance from campus-wide arts partners who allow the organization to fulfill its mission.