In the middle of the festival at Pasco-Hernando Community College West Campus was a table draped with a white cloth. Students hunched over it with colorful permanent markers to answer the question marked in large bubble letters in the middle:
"To me, art and culture is…"
Hundreds of students milled around and passed through PHCC's "Hispanic Festival," one of many events offered during this year's Art & Culture Week.
Students buzzed with excitement over free tacos and churros, face painting and balloon art. A row of tables shaded by tents housed students experimenting, some for the first time, with watercolor painting and clay sculpturing. Local artists provided them materials and guided them as they sketched fairies and phoenixes and molded roses and snakes.
Art & Culture week is an annual tradition at PHCC intended to expose students to artistic ventures and cultural traditions they may have never otherwise experienced. Cultural diversity panels, art demonstrations and miniature festivals were among the festivities students could attend on each of the college's four campuses Feb. 26 through March 2.
Kelli Cracolici, a phlebotomy student at PHCC, was happy to find a few free minutes in between classes to scope out the festival and get a dinosaur balloon animal from Lester McMeely, who made balloon creations on requests for students waiting to get body paint done by his wife, Susan.
"I was happy to be able to walk in the middle of it on my way from class to the cafeteria," Cracolici said. "Normally, I have classes back to back and miss events like this."
Next to the McMeely's booth was a group of dancers from Salsa Caliente Dance Studio in Tampa. With a radio blasting energetic salsa music and outstretched hands, the group invited students to learn the dance.
Back at the white cloth-draped table, the fabric was filling up with answers from students. For them, art and culture is, amongst many other things, "a life of expression," "what makes us human," and serves to "unite us as a people" and give us "a voice."
About 2,700 people attended Arts & Culture Week in 2012, the event's first year, and the college is anticipated more this year, said Bob Bade, PHCC's associate dean of student activities and engagement.