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Ha Quoc Huy / For Spectator

The Athena Leading Man, J.J. Abrams, stops to take photos with attendees before receiving the Athena Leading Man award at the Athena Film Festival.

Columbia is no stranger to famous guests on campus, but 2017 and 2018 saw celebrities from nearly every field of art pay a visit to Morningside at events such as the Athena Film Festival and Bacchanal, as well as for individual talks.

Guests of the eighth annual Athena festival included producers and stars of critically acclaimed Lifetime show “UnREAL,” which premiered its third season at the opening night of the festival; Gloria Steinem, who participated in a panel for Valerie Red-Horse’s film “MANKILLER;” and director of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Lost” J.J. Abrams. Abrams was honored with the Athena Leading Man Award for advocacy for women in the entertainment industry and gave an exclusive interview to Spectator about giving the spotlight to women and the meaning of the Time’s Up movement.

Annual spring concert Bacchanal brought headliner Ty Dolla $ign alongside supporting acts Kamaiyah, St. Beauty, and student opener Soul for Youth to campus in April. Concertgoers were surprised with guest appearances from RJ, TeeCee4800, and YG, all rappers who have collaborated with Ty Dolla $ign and who performed alongside him for numbers during the show.

Well-known figures in art, music, and literature also made visits to campus to give talks to Columbia students. In October, visual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei described his vision for recent installation “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” and discussed the role of art in activism, citing his experiences with the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China. Musician Patti Smith filled the Lenfest Center’s venue The Lantern in February, where she promoted her newest book “Devotion.” On the same weekend, Martha Stewart, BC ’69, returned to her alma mater to impart entrepreneurial tips to current students. | @ColumbiaSpec

Athena Film Festival Bacchanal Ai Weiwei Martha Stewart Patti Smith
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