A Marvelous Party Highlights NEXT Festival

Work by more than 80 students across artistic disciplines was on show at the annual Extravaganza.

May 2, 2024

Figure hurrying outside Flagg Building

This year's gala Extravaganza, held in the Flagg Building, was not a party you wanted to be late for. (William Atkins/GW Today)

As Noël Coward famously said, “I went to a marvelous party,” along with hundreds of other guests at this year’s NEXT Festival Extravaganza. Wandering through the Flagg Building’s galleries and spaces with the extraordinary variety of sights and sounds on display felt a bit like wandering inside a kaleidoscope.

Complete with delicious catered hors d’oeuvres and mocktails—the non-alkie Moscow mules were especially good—the gala event staged by the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences’ Corcoran School of the Arts and Design presented work by students from across disciplines taught at the Corcoran School, from musical, theatrical and dance performances to visual arts ranging from photojournalism to graphic design and beyond.


Lauren Onkey, the Corcoran’s director, has characterized the Extravaganza gala as “one of the most beautiful nights of the year.” This year’s entry, she said, did not disappoint.

“I’m thrilled to see so many people in the building,” Onkey said, “especially our students, with their friends and families and members of the GW community all very interested in seeing their work. It’s very emotional.”

One of the guests, AJ Harris, attended the event to show support for a friend, graphic designer and B.F.A. candidate Madeleine Brown, and was deeply impressed by the art on view.

“Everything I’ve seen is astonishing,” Harris said. “I’ve had to stop every few seconds and admire the work in front of me. I wish I could talk to all the students about their work.”

Memorable sights and sounds abounded, among them the music of senior Kevin Darmadi, who strolled through the building playing his bagpipes. Darmadi has been playing the pipes for more than a dozen years and has been to Scotland several times.

“I love performing at big events like this,” Darmadi said. “I wasn’t expecting anything in particular, but I’m getting very positive reactions from everyone I’ve talked to. They’ve been a good audience.”

Senior photojournalism student Joseph Decilos was thrilled to have his work on display in a building with such an illustrious history.

“The Corcoran has been home to iconic artists of generations past, and being able to have my work on the same walls is a feeling like no other,” Decilos said. “My intersectional identity shapes the art I make, and growing up I had little representation of queer and Latin figures. Having my art take up space in this institution for the NEXT exhibition gives me a sense of fulfillment, and hunger for the next era to come for me and my peers.”

In a written statement published in NEXT Festival materials, Onkey said, “Students are telling stories and asking questions driven by their engagement with the social impact of their making, research and performance.” This year’s festival guests, she added, will see “work that explores material sustainability and the impact of climate change; an embrace of craft work and AI experimentation; and nuanced expressions of queer identity.”

The festival runs through May 16, with exhibits, live performances, panels and research-based presentations representing the work of more than 80 students. Attendance is free; a schedule of events is available online.

The NEXT exhibition is open to the public in the Flagg Building at 500 17th Street NW through May 16, Wednesday through Sunday from 1–5 p.m. The exhibition will also remain open to the GW community during graduation weekend, May 17–18, for students' families to enjoy.