The Wriston Art Center beckons. Winter exhibitions are available for viewing by appointment for the Lawrence community from now through March 12. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

Three weeks into the term, it’s easy to fall into a routine, embracing your patterns and doing the same thing over and over again—but this year, there’s no way you’ll get bored. 

Even in the midst of a pandemic and facing the daily challenges of social distancing, Winter Term at Lawrence gives you plenty of opportunities to break from a sense of monotony. With the first major Winter Term event, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, in the books, it’s time to turn our minds to the many other events that are packing Lawrence’s calendar and promising great anticipation, whether you’re on or off campus. 

1. PRESIDENT’S BALL AND WINTER CARNIVAL

I’m the type of person who hates everything about winter weather, but even I can’t get enough of the annual winter carnival, organized by the Student Organization for University Planning (SOUP). With a combination of virtual and socially distanced events from Feb. 1 to 7, this year’s event promises all the old classics with COVID-safe modifications, like broomball and a gingerbread house competition, as well as new and exciting activities, including DIY snow globes and “magical” performances.

As always, the carnival leads up to an epic night of dress-up and dancing at the President’s Ball—and this year we’re getting two of them. Students will have the opportunity to get all dolled up, take a million photos, dance until they have to ditch their shoes, and eat all the snacks their stomachs can hold during the special “no-president president’s ball” on Feb. 6, during which on-campus students can head to the lobby of their residence halls for grab-and-go treats and a photo booth picture before joining the rest of the campus community for a party on Zoom. The official President’s Ball is slated for two weeks later, and SOUP is currently in the process of designing the perfect and pandemic-safe way to keep this beloved Lawrence tradition alive.

2. SOUP EVENTS

Along with the non-stop action of Winter Carnival, SOUP also provides other opportunities for students to engage with each other in entertaining and unconventional ways throughout the term. With different events planned every week, students are sure to find the perfect way to unwind, connect, and express themselves, whether it be through live music with friends, crafting the ultimate stuffed animal or any of the many other activities SOUP has planned. Since all SOUP events comply with COVID-19 policies and most have a virtual component, this is the optimal way to get involved with the campus community on your own terms, regardless of your living and learning situation. Check the Lawrence event calendar to find the right SOUP event for you.

3. KIESE LAYMON UNIVERSITY CONVOCATION

Laymon

It’s not every day that Lawrence gets the honor of a visit from a distinguished author, journalist, and professor, so Kiese Laymon’s Jan. 28 convocation is definitely not something you want to miss. Known for his thought-provoking work about his experience as a Black man growing up in the U.S., Laymon is unafraid and honest as he explores the intersectional forces of racism that plague our society. This author of Heavy: An American Memoir, which was the subject of a community book read and discussion as part of Lawrence’s celebration of MLK Day, will deliver “The Radical Possibility and Democratic Necessity of Naval Gazing” via webcast. For the full event program, click here.

See preview of Jan. 28 Convocation here.

4. STUDENT RECITALS

When the pandemic first hit last winter, many student recitals had to be indefinitely postponed as we all tried to adapt to our new normal. Now, two terms later, many of our talented Con musicians have had the time to come up with creative and innovative ways to perform in this new environment. Luckily for the rest of us, that means that Winter Term is full of student recitals. With multiple recitals almost every week of this term, there’s no shortage of opportunities to see our fellow Lawrentians perform, and with a Conservatory as diverse and accomplished as ours, you know you’ll see something remarkable. See the Lawrence event calendar for dates and times.

5. WEEKS OF WELLNESS

The sun sets early, the wind whips against your face every time you go outside, and, on top of that, we’re living through a pandemic. Basically, there’s never been a more important time to focus on wellness.

In collaboration with Student Life and community advisors, Wellness Services is striving to ensure that students have the resources to focus on their physical and emotional health this winter. Each week of the term has a different wellness-related theme, ranging from the broad label of “creativity” to “It’s On Us,” an initiative that aims to combat sexual assault on college campuses. With related programming offered for each of the Wellness Weeks, Lawrence is making it easy to stay healthy, happy, and informed, even in the worst of times. For details about the program, click here.

6. GREAT MIDWEST TRIVIA CONTEST

It’s high-energy, higher intensity, absolutely iconic, non-stop fun—and, well, honestly, it’s a lot—but it wouldn’t be Winter Term without it. The Great Midwest Trivia Contest is picking up where it left off last year on Jan. 29, at 10:00:37 on the dot, and running through the end of the day on Jan. 31. 

Instead of its usual home on the WLFM radio waves, this year’s contest will broadcast its 50 hours of relentless trivia on Twitch, enabling the trivia masters to social distance from their respective locations and promoting more direct communication between the teams and the hosts through video feeds and Twitch chats. Form your teams, join the players’ Discord server, and down some Red Bull—this is an event you don’t want to miss.

See preview of Great Midwest Trivia Contest here.

7. CULTURAL COMPETENCY LECTURES

The new year brings new Cultural Competency Lectures, and this year, there’s an extra special element of novelty. All the remaining lectures are related to museum exhibits, which will be displayed in the Warch Campus Center, so if you can’t make it to the lecture, you can still find lots to learn about the topic on your own. The next lecture, which focuses on the exhibit, Stone of Hope: Black Experiences in the Fox Cities, and discusses the complicated and vital history of African Americans here in Appleton, will take place Feb. 16. And don’t worry if you missed the first lecture on Bridging the GAP Years, 1969-2019, the exhibit will remain in Warch until Jan. 31.

8. FRED GAINES STUDENT PLAYWRIGHT SERIES

Few industries have faced more difficulties due to COVID-19 than the theater, but Lawrence University’s Theatre Arts Department has found ways to adapt. Featuring four short plays written by Lawrence students, the fifth biennial Fred Gaines Students Playwrights Series will run Feb. 25-27. With limited seating available for live performances in the Cloak Theatre, video and audio recordings of the show will be released online for a wider audience.

Written in Lawrence’s play writing class, the four plays—Mercedes by Carly Beyer ’21, Promises by Joe Dennis ’20, Torn Away by Chris Follina ’20, and While Black by Nora Robinson ’21—tackle the most prevalent and complex issues of our time from diverse student perspectives. And who knows? Maybe in 20 years you’ll be able to say that you got to see the debut of a soon-to-be star playwright.

9. FILM SCREENINGS IN THE CHAPEL

There’s something special about going to the movies, and for most of us, it’s been way too long since we last had that pleasure. For students living on campus, the wait is almost over. Although these plans are dependent on guidance from the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team, Lawrence is tentatively set to begin screening films in Memorial Chapel on Jan. 30. With showings at 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays, students in this make-shift movie theater will be seated in every other row with three empty seats between each individual in order to enable social distancing. If you were the kid (or, let’s be honest, the adult) who dreamed of being a Disney princess or a Pixar adventurer, you better add this one to your calendar—the first showing is slated to be Onward, a 2020 Disney-Pixar release.

10. LUNAR NEW YEAR CELEBRATION

International Student Services has always been Lawrence students’ go-to destination for multicultural learning, celebrations, and the best food on campus. The pandemic hasn’t changed that. Although off-campus students might have to miss out on the snacks this year, ISS will host its annual celebration of the Lunar New Year on Feb. 13.

In collaboration with a variety of student organizations, including the Chinese Student Association, Korean Culture Club, Lawrence International, Pan-Asian Organization, Vietnamese Culture Club, and the Diversity and Intercultural Center, the celebration will include presentations from each student group, in addition to guest performances by CAAM Chinese Dance Theatre and Korean Performing Arts Institute of Chicago, all of which will be live-streamed on YouTube. There will also be an additional in-person portion of the celebration during which students living on campus can collect goodie bags with cultural snacks and activities. 

11. OPERA AS FILM

Although COVID-19 has ensured that there won’t be a traditional Mainstage Opera production this year, I have some good news for my fellow opera fanatics. Instead of one major production, the Conservatory is giving us seven, all to be produced as films. Working on varying timelines, the audience can expect performances of Speed Dating Tonight! 2023; The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare; Riders to the Sea, and four one-act radio operas (La fille d’Opéra, Le belle ambitieux, La pauvre Eugénie and Monsieur Petitpois achète un château). The shows will be released online for limited streaming, so make sure to be on the look-out for release dates.

12. WRISTON ART CENTER WINTER GALLERIES

Given that so many art galleries and studios have closed their doors, it’s been hard for the art lovers among us to get their fix. Fortunately, the Wriston Art Galleries have the campus community covered. With the winter exhibitions open until March 12, students can schedule an appointment to view this term’s exhibitions: Art of the Avante-Garde, an exhibition featuring pieces from the origins of Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism; dissolve/resolve, a contrasting combination of work from artists Callie Kiesow and Tanner MacArthur; and Kohler Gallery’s five mini-exhibitions featuring scholarly research from Lawrence students. Click here to book your viewing.

13. CULTURAL EXPRESSIONS

As the culmination of a week devoted to celebrating and uplifting diverse cultures, Cultural Expressions is one of the most exciting and impactful student-led performances of the year. Hosted by Lawrence’s Black Student Union (BSU), the event intends to give a platform to Black and Brown students to express themselves creatively through visual and performing arts. Although COVID-19 has forced the celebration to be reimagined, the show must go on and is likely to incorporate both virtual and (hopefully) in-person elements.

In addition to this must-see performance on Feb. 27, the final week of Black History Month promises myriad activities to honor the intersectional identities of Black and Brown students at Lawrence. Led by All is One (AIO), the week has emerged as a true collaboration of student organizations, including BSU, LU Native Americans (LUNA), Pan-Asian Organization (PAO), COLORES, and Beta Psi Nu (BYN). Truly, there is no better opportunity to celebrate the lives and talents of the entire Lawrence community.

Late-breaking addition with just confirmed details:

14. CONSERVATORY ANTIRACISM SPEAKER SERIES

The Conservatory has started a new antiracism lecture series to highlight the ways in which equity can and must overlap with music. With experience studying and teaching issues of race and gender within a musical context, Dr. Paula Grissom-Broughton, the chair of the music department at Spelman College, is the perfect person to open this year’s series. The Lawrence community will be able to tune into her presentation on these vital topics and more on Wednesday, Feb. 24. Keep an eye on the calendar for more details. The next guest in the series, Executive Director of Alternate Roots Dr. Michelle Ramos, will speak later in the year on Wednesday, April 14.

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Communications office.