Arts & Humanities

UGA students showcase arts, humanities research

Daniel Karcher, DMA in music composition, was the grand prize winner at last year’s Four Minutes 33 Seconds Competition. His presentation about sonic spatialization in music composition included a live demonstration with a harmonica. (Photo by Sidney Chansamone)

Annual 4 Minutes, 33 Seconds Contest is part of Spotlight on the Arts festival

From an examination of patriarchal stereotypes in ballet to a journey through Africa’s architectural marvels using virtual reality, University of Georgia students are conducting creative and thought-provoking research in the arts and humanities.

On Nov. 14, students representing programs ranging from dance to art history to language and literacy education will gather for the annual 4 Minutes, 33 Seconds Contest to highlight their work during a live competitive showcase. The event, from 4-6 p.m. at the Athenaeum on Broad Street, is part of the University of Georgia’s monthlong Spotlight on the Arts festival.

“The 4 Minutes, 33 Seconds Contest is one of my favorite aspects of Spotlight on the Arts,” said Katie Geha, director of the Athenaeum and organizer of the event. “The program emphasizes the fundamental research and deep thinking inherent to working in the arts and the humanities. It’s an incredible opportunity to hear from some of our brightest students on campus and, also, it’s a lot of fun!”

The competition’s name is a reference to the well-known 4’33” composition by John Cage. Performed as four minutes and 33 seconds of silence, this 1952 composition is a three-movement piece that immerses the audience in the passage of time while taking in the sounds around them that are audible in the absence of the music.

Each year, the research topics presented at the 4 Minutes, 33 Seconds Contest center on the visual, literary and performing arts and artists. Student presenters will be judged on several factors including how their project demonstrates research expertise and discipline, creativity in their field of inquiry and engagement with the arts. The challenge comes in presenting their research within the time limit of four minutes and 33 seconds.

Jurors for this year’s competition are: Tracey Johnson, assistant professor of history and African American studies; Neil Lyall, associate dean of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; and Rodrigo Martini Paula, assistant professor in the department of English.

The 10 undergraduate and graduate students selected for this year’s competition represent a wide variety of degrees including English, dance, language and literacy education, graphic design, dramatic media, music performance, classics, art history and theatre and performance studies.

The students’ research topics include the accessibility of student housing in Athens for people with visual impairments, found cardboard as a sculptural medium and dark comedy as a way to mitigate anxiety.

“We often think of research as something that only happens in a science laboratory, but research into the arts and humanities is equally vital to our mission at the University of Georgia,” said S. Jack Hu, the university’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Inquiry in the arts and humanities helps us think creatively and critically, and it enhances our ability to interpret the complexities of the world around us.”

The 4 Minutes, 33 Seconds Contest is one of more than 60 events scheduled during UGA’s 12th annual Spotlight on the Arts festival, which continues throughout November. Other highlights of the festival include Grammy-winning acts at the Performing Arts Center, a University Theatre production of “Mother Courage and Her Children,” a student choreography performance by the department of dance and a night of fine opera by the Hugh Hodgson School of Music.

More information on the 2023 Spotlight on the Arts festival, including a schedule of events, can be found at, as well as on the Arts Council Facebook page, X (formerly Twitter) feed, or Instagram.