Infringement Arts Festival Columbia

by Sierra Zaner / Garnet & Black

In 1952, composer John Cage wrote a piece of music entitled “4’33” that is intended to be played on any instrument, by any number of people, for four minutes and 33 seconds. What stands out about the piece is that for those four minutes and 33 seconds, it consists of complete silence. Some called it a lazy waste of time; others hesitate to refer to it as art. Art has become rigid and overly defined. If only there was a way that any form of art could be expressed openly to the public at no charge whatsoever. 

Well, thanks to public relations senior Emily Olyarchuk, the city of Columbia is going to have that opportunity. For the weekend of March 20-22, Columbians will be able to attend and take part in the first Columbia Infringement Arts Festival at various locations throughout the city, including Conundrum Music Hall, Five Points, Martin Luther King Park and many others. 

Olyarchuk, a theatre minor and honors college student, proposed the idea of an Infringement Festival as her senior thesis. Holding one of these festivals is a great opportunity to combine her love of public relations and theatre. Also, it helps bring the city a concept that she is truly passionate about. “The art scene of Columbia has really grown in the past few years,” Olyarchuk says excitedly, “and support for putting on one of these festivals has been really positive.” 

The Infringement Festival concept was created by Canadian theatre activist Donovan King, who put on the first festival in Montreal as a statement against high-cost art exhibitions. It was focused on nonprofit, grassroots local art. That same reasoning is reflected in Olyarchuk’s own drive to put this festival together. “I’ve been to the big music fests like Bonnaroo, and while they’re great, they’ve just gotten too big and overly commercial,” she says. 

She first experienced an Infringement Festival in her parents’ hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. and fell in love with the liberated environment. “There was somebody making a giant papier mâché elephant head,” she recalls. “I remember I felt like I was seeing true, free expression.” The Buffalo festival includes everything from musicals and poetry to fire and physics. This kind of absolute freedom and diversity is exactly what Olyarchuk is striving to accomplish and inspire at USC and in the community. “While we’re going to have music, it’s about much more than that,” she says. “We want everything that people think is art. You could bang two spoons together if you want; there is no incorrect art.” 

The festival has plans to include everything from USC student art shows to film screenings at Conundrum and acoustic musical performances. Whatever your major or social circle, there is an art lover—and even an artist—in all of us. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Columbia Infringement Arts Festival, visit