From 1984 until today: the evolution of Art Attack at UMD

IMG_4899 (1)By Ally Tobler

Art Attack wasn’t always the stadium-packed, rap music-oriented, end-of-year concert that we know today. It originally started as a festival on McKeldin Mall to showcase student performances.

The first Art Attack was held in April 1984, and the first lineup included student and local bands, improv groups; UMD gymnastic and acrobatic performance group Gymkana, and the Maryland Medieval Mercenary Militia, a student organization dedicated toward researching and creating medieval weapons, clothing and armor.

“It was also really intended to showcase creativity and artwork, not just music. More popular artists didn’t start headlining until the early 1990s,” said Kendall Aughenbaugh, coordinator for University Archives.

University Archives recently installed an exhibit showcasing memorabilia in McKeldin Library that includes a T-shirt from the 2002 Art Attack as well as photographs from previous years. University Archives regularly receives material from Student Entertainment Events (SEE), which includes a vast amount of documentation regarding the planning of the event.

“After 2000 when the Bloodhound Gang and Outkast show got too big and out of control, it had to be moved indoors,” said junior theater major and SEE Concert Director Charles Boulton.

The costs of technology, venue rentals and the performers themselves have shot up in recent years, contributing to the implementation of student tickets. Nowadays, the concert’s student entry fee is $10. In the past, it was free of charge.

“We have always prided ourselves on keeping student ticket prices lower than similar shows by nearby schools,” Boulton said. “This year, making sure that ticket prices were a flat, low fee of $10 was really important to me in my planning process.”

SEE also expresses consideration for students by sending out polls to determine artists and genre preferences. According to Boulton, rap has been the most popular genre selected since he started as concert director in spring 2016.

“I think it was cool how this year SEE sent out that survey for people to fill out on their preferences, and I think they should definitely keep doing that,” junior women’s studies and government and politics double major Rachel Greenberg said. “It’s definitely important for students to get a voice in picking the artist.”

Sometimes, however, booking popular artists can be difficult for SEE.

“When we are getting artists that cost a lot of money, we go through middle agencies to help negotiate contracts and fees,” Boulton said. “It can get difficult when rising popular artists that are in our budget range happen to be touring or at other festivals at the time of Art Attack, which makes our options limited.”

In 2016, T-Pain performed. In 2017, 2 Chainz took the stage. This year, Lil Yachty and Vince Staples showcased their music.

In the past, Art Attack has also seen names such as Joan Jett, Weezer, The Roots, Wyclef Jean, The Chainsmokers and Logic, to name a few.


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