Pratt Nixes “Juggle This!”

April 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Pratt jugglers

Britt Mosely and Melissa Uhl, students at Pratt and members of Jugglers Anonymous, were disappointed Pratt cancelled the festival

[As seen in the Fort Greene – Clinton Hill Patch]

After ten years of bean-bag tossing, club-juggling and unicycling, Pratt Institute has announced it is no longer willing to host the annual juggling festival organized by the school’s resident jugglers, Jugglers Anonymous.

“Juggle This” was the first juggling festival held in New York, partly due to the fact that such a large venue is necessary to accommodate so many jugglers, according to Jugglers Anonymous founder Matt Guzzardo. Because the festival was run by a student club, they have been able to use the Activities Resource Center (ARC) for open juggling, workshops and lessons throughout the weekend and Memorial Hall for the Saturday show, which was attended by about 500 people this year and attracts performers from around the world.

Gardiner said Pratt made the decision that this would be the last year for the weekend-long festival and was still willing to host the Saturday show in subsequent years. But everyone involved with the festival and the show was not willing to do the show without the festival because the open juggling, workshops and lessons are integral to the event.

According to Melissa Uhl, a senior at Pratt and president of Juggler’s Anonymous: The Pratt Chapter, Pratt’s official reason for the decision was liability, as well as pressure from the finance department. “Liability was the official reason, but they keep beating around the bush about exactly why,” she said. “They also said something about the club using the ARC and not paying money, but we’re a student club and we’re supposed to be able to use the ARC for free.”

An official spokesperson for Pratt said the event will not be held after this year due to a planned renovation of Pratt’s Memorial Hall Auditorium, as well as the amount of space required for such an event.

Juggler Matt Guzzardo started the festival when he was a sophomore at Pratt. “It has been my baby for ten years,” he said. Guzzardo has stayed involved with both the club and the festival, hosting the show with performer Myles Kane and providing concessions. But the event is primarily organized by current students and members of the club.

“It’s very rare for such a thing to go on when students come and go,” said Viveca Gardiner, the producer of the show and a juggler herself. “They were the ones putting in all the work and getting motivated to organize the whole thing.”

Not only is the end of the festival a loss forNew York jugglers but also for families in the neighborhood. “Everyone around the community knows it so well,” Uhl said. Gardiner was particularly disappointed because the free workshops and juggling lessons normally offered during the festival would no longer be available.

“I like to teach families recreational activities that can be artistic,” she said. “I saw this as a way to appreciate an art form that’s undervalued. It’s good physical exercise and isn’t difficult to do.”

The juggling community throughout New York suffers from this decision as well. “It’s huge and a highlight of the year for the juggling community here because people come from all around the region and the country, and the world for it,” Gardiner said. “I love having the city offer this opportunity to other jugglers.”

“It’s one of the largest juggling festivals and the only in New York, so to not have it next year is upsetting,” Uhl said. “I know a lot who come only to this festival and that’s how they meet other jugglers, so it’s going to have a big effect on them.”

The end of the festival at Pratt does not necessarily mean the end of “Juggle This,” but the primary concern of the organizers is the same as the school’s finance department: money.

“It’s probably going to cost a lot more money than the festival makes [to host it somewhere else] because of the cost to rent the space,” Uhl said. “Whoever is setting it up would end up losing money we’d have to charge for the festival [in addition to the show].”

Uhl said that student affairs supports the club and she is attempting to approach the student government about getting Pratt to reconsider, but their primary obstacle is the cost.


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