Princeton’s Communiversity Festival of the Arts expected to draw 40,000

 This is part of a series from Ilene Dube of The Artful Blogger.

During the annual Communiversity Festival of the Arts, Princeton residents put out the welcome mat. Even the Bradford Pears have been known to put forth their most heavenly white display for the rite of spring. This year event organizers expect more than 40,000 visitors to attend.

At the request of the Princeton Merchants Association, Communiversity will be held for the first time on a Sunday, when parking is free. From 1 to 6 p.m. April 28, downtown Princeton will be a hub of music, art, food and shopping (albeit for handcrafted items such as jewelry). The day will kick off with a parade of MINI cars.

More than 200 booths will showcase original art and contemporary crafts, and there will be five stages of continuous entertainment at Nassau and Witherspoon streets, Palmer Square Green and the Princeton University campus. Dance performances and demonstrations will run the gamut from ballet tp Bollywood and Flamenco. Restaurant samples will be offered, as well as a farmers market. Hopewell native Danielia Cotton, known for her bluesy southern-rooted rock, will be the featured performer at 5 p.m. Also slated for the main stage will be Lambertville native and alt-rock pianist Luke Elliot. Both Cotton and Elliot have been featured on WXPN’s World Café.

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The roots of Communiversity go back to 1971, when the Arts Council held an annual celebration of the arts called the Art People’s Party. In 1974, the spring festival was held on the grounds of McCarter Theatre and celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday.

Revelers arrived by boat with their picnic baskets when the festivities took place on the Washington Road Bridge in 1976. And in 1985, a group of Princeton University students hosted arts-related activities on campus and Communiversity became a town-gown event. By 1991, the crowds had swelled to 10,000.

While Communiversity started out as a festival of the arts, it has always been a hodge-podge of community activities. From a 1978 edition of Princeton Weekly Bulletin: “Sun Day: new twist to Art People’s Party. Nassau Street will become a solar bazaar… as the Princeton community celebrates National Sun Day. Sponsored by the Arts Council of Princeton,

Sun Day returns

In addition to the usual potpourri of painting, crafts, music, and dancing, this year’s festivities will feature the theme of solar-related energy and conservation. Solar collectors and solar ovens will be on display, as will woodburning stoves, windmills, organic gardens and energy-saving ideas for the home… Sun Day begins… with a procession that will include a children’s band playing instruments made from recycled materials such as tin cans and rubber bands. There will be a massive scavenger hunt during the day, and a hoe-down in the street at 4 p.m.”

Since arriving at the Arts Council as executive director in 2005, Jeff Nathanson sought to return the festival to its roots as an arts festival, and thus the official name was changed to Communiversity Festival of the Arts in 2007. He has also turned it into an arts weekend, with members of the Princeton Area Arts and Cultural Consortium scheduling events throughout the three days. The American Boychoir, McCarter Theatre, the Princeton University Orchestra, Grounds For Sculpture, Princeton University students in the Program of Theater and Dance, Princeton University Art Museum, Morven Museum & Gardens, Westminster Festival Orchestra and others will be offering continuous programming throughout the weekend.  

Special Friday event

Communiversity begins Friday night with Pinot to Picasso, a preview party and fundraising gala with a salon style exhibition, gourmet tastings, wines from around the world, local beers, and dancing. One of the highlights of the evening is the Tombola, a drawing of artworks contributed by local artists. Tickets start at $100 (Taster) to $275 (Tombola, art draw.)

New to this year’s Communiversity will be a Paint Out. Local artists will set up their easels throughout the event site to capture the spirit of the day. The finished pieces will be displayed at a Wet Work Exhibition and Sale at the Arts Council of Princeton’s Paul Robeson Center for the Arts from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday

Family-friendly entertainment begins with Stone Soup Circus parading from Nassau Hall to the Palmer Square Stage beginning at 1:15 p.m. The Arts Council’s “Nana’s-Make-A-Mess” gives kids a chance to express their creativity with messy materials. Not to be outdone, the university will host kid-friendly attractions such as sports clinics, a pie-throwing contest, a bounce house and dunk tank.

Just as the MINIs and the hordes arrive, some Princetonians will be seen leaving town in their Priuses. They’ll return when the streets re-open, the parking goes back to its normal level of hard-to-find, and the quiet town is once again their own.

Communiversity Festival of the Arts will be held Sunday, April 28, 1-6 p.m., Princeton. Here is the performance schedule.


The Artful Blogger is written by Ilene Dube and offers a look inside the art world of the greater Princeton area. Ilene Dube is an award-winning arts writer and editor, as well as an artist, curator and activist for the arts.

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