SPARK! event fuses art forms with social issues

USC gives students a window to expand their cultural perspectives while further venturing into the artistic scene with its arts and humanities initiative Visions and Voices, which kicks off the school year with its annual SPARK! mixed media show Aug. 18 in Bovard Auditorium, showcasing critically acclaimed musicians, dancers, performers and spoken word artists.

The SPARK! 11th Annual Visions and Voices Multimedia Kickoff begins at 6 p.m. with a pre-show from the DJ dynamic duo Urban Assault, otherwise known as Faust and Shortee, at 5:15 p.m. Specializing in “Dubstep, Drum & Bass, Drumstep and Electro House,” the pair have secured top rankings in the DJ industry.

Wristbands are assigned to guests lined up for check-in outside of Bovard, along with free shirts and bags. USC students are admitted for free. Following the event is a reception and post-show performance by Latin rock-and-roll sensation El Vez. Renowned for his dual cultural representation, the phonetically inventive phenomenon combines the American rock icon Elvis with the Chicano experience.

The Visions and Voices’ Multimedia Kickoff will bring a variety of performing artists around the world to the University. Theatre performer and comedian Kristina Wong uses “humor to make smart social statements about the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways that race plays out in America today,” as seen in her New York Times “Off Color” video series.

Race returns as the focal point of back-to-back poetry slam champion Javon Johnson’s spoken word, who has been featured in HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, BET’s Lyric Café and TVOne’s Verses & Flow. Johnson’s words are complemented by the voice of queer Samoan poet and educator Terisa Siagatonu, whose words speak to self-empowerment and educational opportunities for all students.

School of Cinematic Arts Professor Tara McPherson will be presenting at the event in light of her research on digital humanities, gender, race and writing.

Though the debut event exposes students to inspirational artists who have appeared on national media forums and traveled the world, special guests such as Shannon Lay and members of the Versa-Style Dance Company are Los Angeles natives. From listening to sweetened folk tunes to watching stimulating hip hop, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Latin moves, the city’s melting pot of virtuosos mixes with students who share similar expressive passions.

The Visions and Voices initiative was established in 2006 through President C. L. Max Nikias’ vision. He believed that the initiative “provides an inspiring and provocative experience for all USC students, and challenges them to expand their perspectives,” according to the Visions and Voices official website.