Arete Living Arts began on the campus of the Penn State University in 1993 when artist Caeser Pink set out to create a multimedia stage presentation that would mix music, theatre, dance, performance, and interactive video projection.
To bring his vision into reality he brought together a unique coalition of local musicians, filmmakers, dancers, actors, stage designers, choreographers, costume designers, writers, and poets. Having no money to fund the production, the artists all worked for free and paid costs out of their own pockets. The group worked feverishly for ten months as the elements of the complex presentation were created and rehearsed.
With no access to a traditional theater, the group debuted the production in a small nightclub. The reaction from the stunned audience was overwhelming. By the end of the performance the crowd was filled with a near riotous excitement. Quickly word spread about the production and by the 2nd performance reaction was divided into sharply polarized camps.
On the one side a community of artists and activists came together to support the group and their message. On the other side was a storm of controversy that reacted against them by protesting performances, causing promotional flyers to be banned, and making complaints to newspapers and radio stations.
In 1995 the core members of the organization moved to New York City. While still maintaining close to ties to their Pennsylvania base, the organization began to expand both in membership and scope of activities. The group soon forged close relationship with artists communities both in the Harlem and the Greenpoint/Williamsburg areas of New York City.
In addition to continued presentations of their ever-evolving group multimedia productions, the organization produced documentary films such as Politic America, Heart Beats Fire, the Bottom Rung, and an arts variety television series that has been broadcast on public stations across the U.S. and Europe. Other projects include art exhibitions, poetry readings, political debate forums, street theater, innovative art web sites, classical music recitals, fashion shows, music recordings, cultural events, and free computer classes.
Although Arete Living Arts has grown and expanded, programming has always been guided by its original mission to present arts that are enlightening, innovative, and designed to stimulate personal introspection and effect social change.
Creative director Caeser Pink speaks of Arete's mission in terms of a concept he calls "Satorism" (from the Zen word satori), defined as art that inspires personal, political, or spiritual awakening.
Arete Living Arts alumni have gone on to careers on Broadway, television, and films, as well as successful careers in visual arts, music, and many other mediums.