Huddled around a table are three strikingly different figures: one wears brown glasses with hues of blue and rounded lenses, another dons a neutral colored scrunchie and big golden hoops complemented by her subtle nose piercing, and the third has blonde locks and a dark green hoodie. These three students—Aayush Sanghrajka (W '19), Belle Carlson (C '19), and Ethan Daly (W '19)—each have unique personalities, yet the chemistry between them is evident. As they sit down, the three immediately exchange updates on their respective weekends in New York, with continual laughter and the casual exchange of chocolate covered raisins.
There is a commonality among these three students: a passion for art—both to create and to share it with others. Last fall, the trio—along with six other Penn students—presented the interdisciplinary art show ColorVision. This coming Thursday, April 18, the group is reuniting to present their second art show, Before We Go—featuring live music, DJ tracks, photographs, paintings, multimedia works, and more.
One of the most striking aspects of this group is the absence of a name. Aayush explains that the students rejected using "ColorVision" as a group title because their events after ColorVision—like Before We Go—are inherently different. They didn’t want to be defined by a past achievement. With a fluid name, Belle adds, the group can “promote fluidity in the future.” Even more so, a definitive label seems inappropriate for an artistic group. “With an arts group, it's naturally dynamic,” Ethan explains, “so like to label nine people or even a group of people with the same name for every event… doesn’t seem natural.”
Started last fall, the initial group consisted of nine Penn students who were friends or friends of friends, all committed to sharing their art with others. Aayush has been DJing since he was in tenth grade, but didn’t enjoy the type of mainstream music he was playing at the beginning of his time at Penn. His idea for events such as ColorVision and Before We Go started with a desire to give people access to a different kind of music—which he describes as influenced by Hindi music, worldly music, and EDM, among other genres—and offer an inviting space that could serve as both a social and fine arts setting. He wanted to create a space where people could “relax, have a drink, look at some beautiful art," and "talk to people.” To Aayush, “art demands that you… [are] present in the moment,” and that’s what he strived to foster with these collaborations.
For Belle—who creates photographic multi–media works, recently with a focus on environmental portraitures—the opportunity for this creative collaboration was appealing: “the idea of having… many different mediums of creators collaborating in one space was really beautiful to me.” Ethan was attracted to the opportunity “to have a clear time frame, a clear objective at the end,” that would require him to complete his EP in a timely manner. In these art shows, he’s tested new styles, creating electronic music for ColorVision and now “pure bedroom pop” with “a lot of singing, a lot of choruses” for Before We Go.
With ColorVision this past fall, the group's goal was to bring an art show to the Penn community that features a specific group of artists in an intimate setting. The event took place at Color Space Labs and included one sound–based, dance–based room and one conversation–focused room. For Belle, one of the most successful aspects of this show was the overlap she witnessed among social circles. All of the group members had mutual friends without realizing it. They were pleasantly surprised when friends showed up who they themselves hadn’t invited but a different group member had. This overlap of social circles is key to the group’s mission—to create events that everyone can enjoy, not an activity limited to members of any one particular group.
While Before We Go will aim to reproduce the intimacy of ColorVision, the event is scaling up—hosted at a 400–person venue, and will include more artists and more work. Before We Go features 15 group members, including three more DJs from Penn, an artist from Temple, an artist from NYC, and an artist fom Upstate New York. “This is a Philadelphia thing, not just a Penn thing,” Aayush explains. Even more so, the work displayed will be different. While ColorVision gave each artist a wall to depict their work, Before We Go will display works of different artists next to each other—including photographs next to paintings and paintings next to multimedia works.
The music scene will also change, now including Ethan performing live with Chris Troop (C '19), another new addition to the group, along with DJs performing in separate rooms at staggered times. Regardless of these changes, Aayush says he wants to retain a lot of the spirit of ColorVision: “I still want the intimacy and the conversations—especially around the art—to exist, because that was one of my favorite parts of the last show.”
Before We Go is also a last hurrah for the group’s seniors before they graduate. They recognize that this 15–people group will never be in the same space creating the same project for the Penn community and the greater Philadelphia community again.
Furthermore, the name is about “forcing yourself to be in the present and in the moment,” Aayush explains. “The term Before We Go… can even be [interpreted] on a more… micro–level… like before we go, before we leave this interview, before we leave a class or anything, it’s like be in the present, be in the moment… and you can get darker on that [and think] like life is very fragile.”
Regarding advice about what you should do ‘before you go,’ or graduate, the trio came to a consensus: don’t take yourself too seriously, try new things, and reach out to new people. Maybe text a friend who you don’t talk to much, but who you think would enjoy the event.
Before We Go will take place on April 18 from 8:30 p.m.–12:30 a.m. at Location215. The event will feature multimedia works, paintings, sounds, and a live set as well as an open bar. A complete list of those involved is available here. Tickets are available here.