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SouthNext festival celebrates local artistry in McNulty

The SouthNext festival held the closing events on Sunday at Seton Hall University in McNulty Hall and the Jubilee auditorium. This is the fifth year of SouthNext. The weekend-long festival brings together artists, musicians and well-renowned speakers in order to inspire and bring together the South Orange community.

Rodell Laranang/Staff photographer

SouthNext started on Saturday at the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC). There was a wide range of speakers that catered to a variety of interests.

There were some presentations about art, like “Drawing with Difficulty” given by local art expert Jason Rulnick. There were also talks on mindful living, such as “Hope in a time of anxiety - living a mindful life” presented by Jean Vitrano, a mindfulness facilitator, and Dr. Anthony Nicotera, a social work and justice educator.

Sunday was the final day of SouthNext. The Sunday events were held at Seton Hall in McNulty Hall and the Jubilee Auditorium.

One of the most notable events of the day was called “An Afternoon with Dolores Huerta,” a famous labor and civil rights activist. She has won many awards for her work as an activist, including The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. At the event Huerta sat down with journalist, Alicia Menendez, to talk about her life and legacy as an activist.

There were also many other events on Sunday, such as “Scott Kettner and Nation Beat Trio”. This event brought together the music of Brazil, New Orleans, and New York City. The show was meant to not only teach people about music from different cultures but also served as a fun, interactive way to close off SouthNext.

Stephen Schnall, the village trustee for South Orange Village, is one of the South Next founders and producers.

"SouthNext is a great opportunity for people to engage deeply using arts and music.” Schnall said, “The arts are a unique vehicle to inspire people, and these sessions are meant to inspire people.”

Schnall also mentioned that this was “not a passive experience.” The events were very interactive and engaging. Also, that these events were amazing for “people who are interested in lifelong learning.”

The SouthNext festival fell on the same weekend as the Seton Hall family weekend. This was intentional. Seton Hall worked with SouthNext organizers to collaborate on the weekend’s festivities. Schnall said it was a “collaborative intuitive” and that the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Peter W. Shoemaker, was a big supporter of the event.

Many Seton Hall students also helped volunteer at the SouthNext events. Volunteers for the closing event helped hand out programs, welcome people, helped people find the auditorium, and answered questions about SouthNext. Julia Lomonte, a freshman creative writing major, volunteered at the Sunday closing event.

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“It was a very pleasant, welcoming atmosphere,” Lomonte said. “It was really cool! I saw a lot of families there. There was a lot of music and it just had a really fun vibe.”

This year’s SouthNext festival was free with the exception of one session requiring a small fee. Schnall said this was due to the generosity of their sponsors, RWJ Barnabas Health and Seton Hall University. Other sponsors included SOPAC, Stop & Shop, and South Orange Village Center.

Genevieve Krupcheck can be reached at


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