Fresh Connect with Charlette San Juan

The Fresh Connect is an event, concept, and brand that celebrates and connects emerging talents, seasoned professionals, participants, and supporters of hip-hop culture. This event is specifically rooted in celebrating and building community around and through hip-hop. We spoke to Charlette San Juan, a graduate student of Columbia College Chicago and organizer of the event, about this year’s plans.

It’s the 5th edition of The Fresh Connect this year. What are the plans?

This year will definitely be bigger than it’s ever been. We’ll be showcasing all the different elements of hip-hop as well as the many talents Columbia students have to offer. What makes it so special is that we’re in the 5th year, so we’re making everything more special and have been very ambitious with our goals!

How does It feel handling both the production and talent for this event?

Grad students in this class are the producers for the event, and that’s really exciting and nerve-wracking for me because, while I’ve done several events in the past, I’ve never taken on the role of a producer, so this is a new learning experience! I’m the talent head too, which to me, is so similar to being a Stage Manager, and I am taking in that role more comfortably. We’re gathering the best talents we have in Columbia, and that just makes the job easier because I get to work with cool, talented people!

How do you feel this year will be different than last year?

Last year was a challenging time to mount an event, given that we didn’t have vaccines yet, the entire event was purely live-streamed. Even more, a reason to make this year more special, we’re challenging ourselves even more this year by mounting a hybrid event! We know that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and with that, we’re also following protocols and know that we’re working with a limited capacity for our venue, but we want to accommodate as much audience as we possibly can, so the entire class took on the challenge of having an in-person audience as well as virtual!

What are you hoping people get out of this event? And what do you think you will get out of this?

The Fresh Connect intends to highlight the hip-hop culture in Columbia and in Chicago. We want our audience to connect with both student artists as well as industry professionals. We also want to be able to help our chosen beneficiaries, which we will announce very very soon and y’all should follow all our social media to find out more information!

How will this help you in your future plans?

While my primary focus is Theatre, I have been a freelance for events since I was an undergrad. The Fresh Connect gives me an opportunity to work on my skills in that department and help me learn better about handling and mounting events. Shannon has been so trusting as well as a great mentor throughout the semester so far and I am learning a lot with the guidance she’s been giving us! Everything I am learning from this class has been so valuable and I can see myself doing more work like this in the future!