From behind the scenes (and screens)
'Alone Together: Resilience in Art' showcases artwork made by students and faculty during the pandemic
I never thought I would find myself on a stage in the first place. Before starting this job, the last time I was regularly on a theatre stage was probably for my second grade ballet recital. My background is in the arts but in the realms of museums, galleries, public art, arts agencies and occasionally artmaking. Visual art.
On March 12, I stood on the stage of Nightingale Concert Hall and greeted our Performing Arts Series attendees for what I later learned would be last time in 2020.
We all know what happened next.
Over the next few months, the performing arts industry (along with almost every industry) changed dramatically. Theatres and performance venues shuttered and have yet to reopen. Artists in all disciplines (but especially the performing arts) are hurting – unable to perform, rehearse, exhibit or earn a living.
While the organizations and systems that support artists closed and continue to struggle with the realities around reopening in the midst of a global pandemic, artists have been left with no other option than to find new ways to create, now using new tools while testing new parameters and possibilities. The process of artmaking has changed in itself. Studios and tools weren’t available during the stay-at-home order. In-person rehearsals and lessons are still not possible. The places artists turn to for inspiration might be unavailable. And as a result, artwork is produced in an entirely new way, with new meanings, new focus and a new impact.
July is Artown. With this new arts landscape, Artown became Heartown, and in many ways, left its new content and structure up to our local arts community – the contributors. The opening event went virtual, Artown-sponsored performances were postponed to the following year, and local arts organizations have stepped up more than ever to fill the calendar with engaging virtual or socially distanced programming. It is inspiring and it is our arts community.
The School of the Arts has long wanted to have an official event during Artown but we just haven’t had the time to put something together. With the Reno Jazz Festival and Lake Tahoe Music Camp canceled, our Special Events office found ourselves with a little more time than we usually have each spring. We jumped at the opportunity and challenge to create something new!
Alongside faculty members from the Departments of Art, Music, and Theatre and Dance, we developed Alone Together: Resilience in Art. This three-part happy hour series showcases artwork made by students and faculty during the pandemic. The first two events are in the books with recordings available on our YouTube channel, and the final event of the series is Thursday, July 23, at 5 p.m.
Alone Together: Resilience in Art is intended to be fun and celebratory. We encourage attendees to grab a beverage and screen of choice and join us for a 30 minute happy hour. But times are really tough right now. People seem to be more open, vulnerable and raw. And the artwork included in this series reflects all of that.
Through dance performances, theatre productions, visual artist books, solo performances, video productions and music, we start to feel our way through the pandemic and get a sense for how this experience is actually changing both the artwork and the process that goes into making the artwork.
Just as I found myself behind a computer screen instead of on the stage, artists have found themselves alone, with fewer rules and new potential tools. They are learning how to create in this new context and exploring the possibility this holds. This new artwork carries a receptive power that evokes emotions of all kinds. As we experience this new body of work, we feel deeply, how we are forever changed by this experience.
I think back to March 12 all of the time. I long for the moment that I can walk back out on that stage and greet our audience members (as a visual artist, I never would have guessed that I might one day look forward to being on our stage). Until then, we work diligently and passionately from behind the scenes (and screens) to continue producing and sharing artwork from University faculty and students.
(Note: Shoshana Zeldner joined the School of the Arts in early 2019 as Program Manager, Special Events. With support from two full-time staff, she manages the Performing Arts Series, Reno Jazz Festival, Lake Tahoe Music Camp, and develops new programs to serve students and faculty in the School of the Arts. Shoshana is committed to developing arts programming that strengthens community and inspires creativity, participation and conversation.)