Refugia Festival

Alexis Lamb, School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Collaborators: Diana Martinez, SEAS; Anthony Kolenic, Director of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (MBGNA); Jeni Olney, Director of optiMize (social impact accelerator through LSA); Alexis Ford, Event Coordinator at MBGNA; Marie Seipenko, CEO and Certified Coach (business coaching/mentorship); Laura Khalil, Founder, Brave by Design and Elevate (marketing mentorship); Frances Pollock, Founder/CEO, Midnight Oil Collective (startup business strategies within the arts)

Refugia Festival’s mission is to advocate for environmental conservation and preservation through the sense of sound. The two-day festival incorporates music performances, educational programming, and community service to create meaningful environmental change on a local level. With each presentation of Refugia Festival, communities will celebrate and take steps to preserve their ecosystem through awareness of and interaction with the surrounding soundscapes.

Refugia Festival-Ann Arbor (RF-A2) will take place in Nichols Arboretum on April 20-21, 2024. Refugia Festival’s momentum thus far has only been possible through the numerous interdisciplinary collaborations throughout our university community.

I participated in the 2022-23 optiMize Social Innovation Challenge and was selected for the Cohort 11 Fellowship through the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) this past summer to kickstart the festival. I am also continuing my relationship with optiMize to engage stakeholders and eventually advertise the event in the winter 2024 semester. RF-A2’s schedule and venue have also been confirmed by Anthony Kolenic, director at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (MBGNA), who has engaged in meetings discussing initial production considerations. I am working closely with MBGNA staff to coordinate all logistics for RF-A2, including the community service event that will benefit Nichols Arboretum and take place during the festival.

I am also collaborating with graduate student, Diana Martinez, in the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), to curate a series of educational workshops for RF-A2 that highlight the Southeast Michigan ecosystem and steps to preserve it. Diana has experience with curriculum development for K-12 students with an emphasis on bilingual (English and Spanish) education materials for environmental sciences.

While Refugia Festival was originally my idea and has officially been registered as an LLC under my name, RF-A2 will not be possible without cooperative collaboration. Diana and I are confirming the educators and artists who will present at RF-A2 and plan to have the complete schedule finalized to begin advertising by January 2024.

My skills and experiences with concert management and production, directing music programs, and creating opportunities for community music-making have been essential in programming the music performances for RF-A2. Additionally, Diana’s curriculum ideas and connections have benefitted our education programming. I am also working to secure funding sources through grants and corporate sponsorships as well as coordinating all planning with MBGNA staff with regard to equipment, security, ticket sales, and other logistical considerations. I plan to work with additional collaborators starting in early 2024 to help with marketing RF-A2 throughout the southeast Michigan region.

Based on my stakeholder engagement so far, I anticipate that RF-A2 will offer another perspective from which to focus conservation efforts since we do not often consider human-made sonic impact on the environment as a critical concern. Through music performances, educational programming, and community service, RF-A2 will celebrate the beauty of our natural world and encourage attendees to take positive steps to preserve this ecosystem for future generations. Financial support from the Arts Engine Student MicroGrant would move Refugia Festival one step closer to presenting a successful inaugural event.