Visual, performing arts students prep for physically distant audiences

Shreveport, La., senior Allison German paints in a Baylor art studio before coronavirus forced the world into lockdown. Photo courtesy of Allison German Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Allison German

By Lauren Taylor | Copy Editor

While every student has been affected by the academic changes brought about by COVID-19, art majors have the additional burden of learning how to create art for audience members who are social distancing.

Florence, Mont., senior Chase Windmueller said the Baylor School of Music is implementing the typical changes that are being felt across the Baylor campus as well as removing live audiences at concerts and recitals. They will continue to rehearse in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building but will be implementing spaced out seating within the room.

“As much good as this will do for public health, there is no way to replace live performances,” Windmueller said. “The energy changes somehow and people feel inclined to listen and hear what you have to say. In live-streamed scenarios, at least in my opinion, [the audience] is missing parts that really bring the whole experience together.”

Film and digital media majors also are having to find new ways to create and share their art in a world where movie theaters are closed and film festivals are canceled.

San Antonio senior Nic Diaz said the cinema shutdown has been initially very stressful as some movies just need to be seen in a theater.

“The experience of watching something on the best screen with the best audio system with almost complete strangers cannot be replicated at home,” Diaz said. “Some of my favorite memories have happened in movie theaters and I have had countless dreams of having something of mine play in a theater.”

Additionally, the shift from in-person to online class instruction inflicts struggles on studio art majors. Shreveport, La. senior Allison German said Zoom classes are not ideal because so many aspects of art can only be experienced in person.

“So much of what we do involves equipment that the university provides, and one of the most important things we learn is how to participate in critiques,” German said. “Critiques based on submitted photos of [painted] work lack sufficient commentary on texture and technique.

This semester German is taking two hybrid art studios. Both of these studios, wood sculpture and printmaking, require supervised use of Baylor art equipment.

In an email to School of Music students, Dr. Randall Umstead, associate professor of voice, spoke of the quality of online classes.

“We were already well into planning for every MUS course to be available for remote participation,” Umstead said. “We are committed to delivering a Baylor-quality education, no matter the format of instruction.”

Today, there is still a lot of unease and uncertainty when it comes to discussing the present and future states of all of these art industries.

Windmueller said although he will try to provide the same musical experiences for his audiences no matter what, he is afraid the state of things will diminish his effectiveness.

“People need that [physical] presence to receive the full extent of the power of music,” Windmueller said. “It is irreplaceable.”

While the majority of movie theaters remain closed, film students who are getting ready to graduate are forced to face the hardships that have stemmed from the pandemic.

“In terms of Hollywood, that has given me all sorts of anxiety because I want to have a career in the industry, but they have other things to worry about right now [other] than me or anyone else trying to break in,” Diaz said. “[It’s) totally understandable as this pandemic has affected everyone and I want the people already there to have their jobs and release what they need to release, but it does make things harder for other aspiring filmmakers.”

However, this time of trial and sacrifice has not been without some encouragement. Artists of all media have found new ways to show-case their talents and create ways to interact with their virtual audiences.

“Many artists have taken up social media platforms to show their work,” German said. “I used to view my work as too personal for Instagram but recently I’ve been sharing it and the positive responses are overwhelming. I think the world needs to experience art now more than ever and we will find ways to do that safely.”

Many visual and performance art majors are in the same boat when it comes to adapting to a world in which there is not a physical audience present to take in the work they have created.

“Anyone who makes art, whether it be [physical] art, music, film, theater or literature, wants to tell a story,” Diaz said, “The only way for that story to be told is to have people who are willing to listen to [and] observe it.”