I hope you’ve enjoyed a relaxing couple of weeks off. I’m taking the time to soak up this last week with my roommates before the semester starts.
I arrived back in Ann Arbor a couple of days ago and I have to say it feels like a different place than when I moved here three and a half years ago. Businesses have closed down, the movie theaters are still dark, restaurants and bars are limited to take-out-only. When I walk down Main Street, I no longer see lines for concerts at The Ark or jazz at the Blue Llama. And while I would love to sit in Hill Auditorium and see a Gerswhin show, I know that all of this is to protect our community.
The past semester felt dark, at times, especially being so rooted in performing arts, but this blog has been a shining light. It has allowed me to speak with some incredible people and hear hopeful stories of how the arts are surviving on campus. I’ve been in awe over the creative ways that academic departments, student organizations, and campus resources have adapted to the challenges this year has presented. They have not only found a way to continue their missions amid a global pandemic, but many have addressed students’ mental health and wellbeing as well as critical social justice issues. We have shown up for one another, and that is a beautiful thing.
This blog is all about looking towards the future, and the new year is all about that prospect. Of course, we know that 2021 is not a fresh start that will magically solve all the world’s problems, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot also recognize the hope that this year brings. So let us hope that 2021 brings us more community, more creativity, and more compassion. I am so looking forward to having new conversations with resources and organizations on campus, and to hearing how students are “looking forward” this year.
Til’ next week,
P.S. If you have any suggestions for organizations/people I should interview – please leave me a comment below!
I hope exam season is treating you well and you’re finding ways for self-care in the midst of all of it. This week, I spoke with Aylin Gunal, Editor-in-Chief for Writer-to-Writer. I asked her about the publication, how the organization has adjusted to this semester, how she perceives creativity on campus this semester, and how students can get involved. It was a wonderful conversation I’m excited to share with you all!
If you don’t already know, Writer to Writer is a student publication that began in the Minor in Writing program. The twice-yearly collection is open to students across campus and encourages multi-modal writing submissions (videos, photo essays, etc.). The organization’s staff is made up of students, many of whom are in the Minor in Writing program, though others are welcome.
Thanks to technology, not a ton has changed for Writer to Writer this semester. Aylin told me that they’ve been pretty successful adjusting their regular programming to be online, including their weekly meetings. Additionally, they’ve begun to incorporate more events like writer’s workshops, which have served as community-builders within the organization. This has been especially important, as Aylin realized how valuable the small chat before meetings and between discussions was once it was significantly reduced due to zoom. In order to address this, they’ve been incorporating more intentional community-building activities this semester, including a minor-wide book exchange for the holiday season! Although it’s not quite the same as hanging out in North Quad every week, it’s a way for writers to expand their skills and make friends during this crazy year.
When I asked Aylin how she saw creativity on campus adjusting this semester, she told me that she really missed the chance encounters that being on campus in typical semesters allows. You can walk through the Diag and see a group of students playing handmade instruments, pass the art museum and see a new exhibit, or walk by a pillar filled with fliers and learn about an acapella concert happening that weekend. Now, the information you get is much more based on following the right people or being on the right newsletters, which can limit what you’re exposed to. Hopefully, however, we find ways to bring some of these simple reminders of “normalcy” back to campus next semester.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Writer to Writer, you can submit your work to their blog or publication here. If you’re interested in being on the staff, you can email email@example.com attend the next weekly meeting. You can also stay up to date with their activities, including a soon-to-be-announced campus-wide writing competition, by following their Facebook or Instagram pages.
That’s all from me this week! Good luck to everyone on finals and remember to take some time to take care of yourself! I’ll technically be on hiatus until classes return but keep an eye out… you may get a special post or two 🙂
Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a chance to recharge over the break, whether you celebrated Turkey Day or not. The holidays look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best out of them and still find ways to connect to friends and family (albeit virtually).
This week I had the chance to talk to Katie Lorenz, a member of APG (Arbor Promotion Group) Presents, about how the org is adapting to the year as well as how she views the arts scene on campus acclimating to the health and safety guidelines. Read on to learn more!
Founded in 2018, APG Presents is one of the more recent groups to enter the music scene on campus. They have two main focuses: producing and promoting live events, and helping students in the organization with professional development. In a typical year, they help put on shows at Necto and other venues around campus, bring in speakers from the industry to talk to members of their organization or the larger UofM community, and help with resumes, internship searches, and interview prep. They currently have over 50 members, with leadership opportunities for those interested in learning more hands-on about the industry.
This year, APG Presents has had to pivot, as all of us have, but they’ve done a great job of maintaining much of their usual programming. They’ve moved their weekly meetings to be virtual, as well as their professional development programs. Their live music events have also been moved virtual, but have been able to shift to include things like artist Q&As as well. Katie explained that, although it’s obviously a bummer that they can’t all be together and produce their normal concerts, there have been bright sides to the changes, too. “Virtual experiences do a great job for [these] events of bringing people to us who might not have been able to, like, fly to us directly, people all across the world… So I think that’s been working in our favor kind of this year.” If you’ve read other posts from Looking Forward, this is a theme that a lot of people have come to notice over the pandemic – the musical theatre department, the Shapiro Design Lab, and now APG Presents. The limitations of geographical barriers seem to be non-existent now, and it will be interesting to see if that trend continues once things start returning to “normal”.
I also asked Katie to share her thoughts on the state of the arts on campus right now. She told me that she sees creativity and the
way that arts organizations on campus have expressed themselves during this time as being really interesting – people are finding new ways to commit to their ideas and what they stand for. One example she brought up is the UMMA showing support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. If you’ve walked by the UMMA recently, you may have noticed that half of it is covered in stitched-together canvas sacks. This is by artist Ibrahim Mahama and is meant to “[celebrate] the often-invisible labor of Black and brown people behind global exchange and commerce while acknowledging the troubling histories of colonialism and slavery in the Western world,” (from the UMMA website). Personally, I found this interesting because although I had walked by this installation many times, I didn’t really understand what it was saying. Katie’s comment reminded me that there is always something to uncover about the arts on campus, always something new to experience, and that gives me a lot of hope for the year ahead.
If you’d like to learn more about APG Presents and stay up-to-date on their future events, be sure to follow their Instagram @APGPresents and their LinkedIn page. If you’re interested in joining the organization, you can email Talia Rizika at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you wanna read more about the UMMA installation I mentioned, you can check it out here.
That’s all from me this week. I hope you have an amazing rest of your week and stay safe!
I know it’s been a stressful week for many of us, between election results and many people moving back home during the stay-at-home order. I hope that you are all able to find a way to relax this weekend and perform some rituals of self-care. Do a face mask, drink some tea, go on a run, or make a nice dinner for yourself. You deserve it. Beyond that, I hope that this article can provide a space for you to think about something else for a few minutes, easing your stress even just a little bit. So, without further ado, let’s get into this week’s conversation.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Erica Ervin, Technology & Media Production Specialist at the Shapiro Design Lab. What is the Design Lab, you might ask? Erica describes it as “an engaged learning community focused on interdisciplinary collaboration and peer to peer learning and teaching that offers a variety of spaces and tools for everyone on campus.” It’s located on the first floor of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library (or the UGLi, as you may know it better) and houses a variety of tools like 3D printers, a letterpress, and equipment for recording and graphic or video editing. There is even a repurposed vending machine that distributes current student works, like poetry, small 3D prints, stickers, and more!
As someone who has used the Design Lab myself, I want to stress that the value of this resource is not just in the physical tools they provide, but in the incredibly knowledgeable and energetic staff as well. If you have a creative idea but you’re not sure where to start to make it a reality, chances are the Design Lab staff can help you. They can provide consultations for students, staff, faculty, and the community on projects ranging from community citizen science projects to converting physical media to be digitally accessible to storytelling, including podcasts.
Given the changing nature of creativity and collaboration on campus, the staff at the Design Lab have been trying to gauge the needs of campus right now and how they can best provide assistance. Although their main workshop and PIE spaces (standing for prototype, invent, explore) are closed right now, they offer virtual consultations for many types of projects and can help direct you to where physical tools may be accessible right now. Additionally, their media production rooms are currently available to reserve for individual use, with the recording microphones being quarantined between users. The staff can also help you make the most of your own recording equipment, including best practices for conducting and recording interviews via video call.
Erica also left me with a beautiful reminder when I asked her how her own experience with the arts on campus has changed this semester, saying,
“It’s a little bit trickier for me to consume the art that’s being created on campus. But I don’t think that means that art has stopped. I think that the current situation has brought even more creativity to the way that people are not only making art or making things in general, but also in the way that they’re putting it out to the world, putting it out for others to see. They’re finding these new solutions to get things out and that’s really exciting.”
And I think that is so true. Although we may not be able to view and share art together like we are used to, it’s important to remember that it has not disappeared. It is still here, pulsing through campus as powerfully – or even, maybe, more so – than ever before.
If you want to get involved with the Shapiro Design Lab or use their resources, be sure to check out their website hereor email them at email@example.com. And if you’re interested in using their media production rooms, here is the Canvas training you’ll need to go through before you can reserve a time.
That’s all for now! Come back next week to hear about Creatives of Color and how they are adjusting to this semester on campus.
*Please note, quotes have been edited minimally for clarity and reading purposes, with the intention to maintain all of the meaning and voice of the author*
This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Vince Cardinal, Professor and Chair of the Department of Musical Theatre here at the University of Michigan. He offered insights as to what the department does in a typical year, how they’ve been adjusting to the restrictions of this semester, and how students can still view and participate in theatre on campus!
If you didn’t already know, the Musical Theatre program here at Michigan is one of the best in the country. Professor Cardinal told me they accept less than 2% of applicants — roughly 20% less than Michigan’s already-competitive acceptance rate. This is, in part, because of the department’s incredible reputation; they are one of the most represented schools on Broadway and are increasingly being featured in TV and film productions as well. A typical MT major’s schedule is around two-thirds filled with musical theatre courses, with the rest left for general requirements, minors, or even dual-degrees. Through their involvement in University Production shows, as well as participating in a variety of student productions, MT students gain experience performing a wide variety of genres and become equipped for whatever opportunities come their way after graduation. Check out this video featuring some Maize and Blue alumni:
Of course, like most programs, the Department of Musical Theatre has had to make some adjustments in their teaching and performing this semester. Almost all of their current curriculum has been moved virtual, except for dance classes, which have been reduced in density while utilizing masks and social distancing. Although having to teach and learn the performing arts online is obviously not ideal, Professor Cardinal told me that there have been some silver linings in all of it. For example, they’ve been able to bring in top-tier talent to help their students – including Andy Blankenbueler (the choreographer for Hamilton) and representatives from the Fosse Legacy. The increased access to such impressive professionals via video calls is something the department hopes to continue utilizing in the future.
If you’re like me and the musical theatre productions on campus are something you look forward to, you may be disappointed that you can’t see them in action at the Mendelssohn, Power Center, or Arthur Miller Theatre. The good news, however, is that there are exciting opportunities to come! The department has been working to film a series of performances by their students called MT Ghostlight 2020, asking them to respond as artists to what’s happening to them at this point in history. These will be streamed on the first three Fridays in December – the 4th, 11th, and 18th – so mark your calendars! If you’re missing theatre in the meantime, you can check out the Senior Entrance of MT21.
If you’re interested in participating in theatre on campus, Professor Cardinal recommends auditioning for one of the many student groups on campus such as MUSKET, Rude Mechanicals, Basement Arts, and so many more. He also noted that the Musical Theatre Department sometimes needs crew help for their shows. This semester, specifically, they are in need of videographers, sound editors, and other digital media creators to help them produce content in this new environment. Be sure to follow their Instagram @umichmusicaltheatre to stay up-to-date with what the current MT students and alumni are up to!
That’s all for this week. Special thanks to Vince Cardinal for taking the time to speak with me. Check back next week for a feature on the Shapiro Design Lab!
Welcome to my new column here on arts, ink.: Looking Forward. My name is Lucy. I’m excited to get started on my journey as a writer in this space, but first, let me introduce myself.
I’m a senior in LSA majoring in Communication & Media Studies with a double minor in Performing Arts Management and Writing. That’s a really long-winded way of saying that this blog is right up my alley; I’m really passionate about connecting students with the arts on campus. The talent and resources we have access to while we’re at Michigan are incredible, and I encourage everyone to take full advantage of them during your time here.
I’m currently the co-president of MUSIC Matters, a non-profit student organization that aims to use the unifying power of music to drive social impact in the community. Through our capstone event SpringFest, as well as our programming throughout the year, I’ve been able to see the breadth of work that students on campus are doing in the arts and I hope to help showcase that in this column. I’ve also worked as a Program Assistant for Arts Ambassadors through Arts at Michigan, where I got to learn
more about the campus resources that are available to students wanting to engage in the arts.
My professional interests lie in the intersection of arts and community, with special emphasis on diversity and accessibility. I’ve seen how the arts can bring people together, it’s a powerful force. By allowing us to see others’ forms of expression, art encourages us to engage in empathy, which the world could use more of right now. I’m excited to continue advocating for the arts and the connections it can forge throughout my career, wherever it may take me.
Enough about me, I’m sure you’re curious about what this column is. The goal of Looking Forward is to engage in conversations with arts groups and resources on campus. Every Friday I’ll be spotlighting one, exploring the strategies that they’re implementing to continue their programs and engage with the community during this complex public health, social, and political time. I also want to provide a space where students can access information about how to engage with these arts platforms, whether by participating or viewing since it can feel very decentralized at the moment. Hopefully, you’ll find this column to be a place where you can discover arts resources, reconnect with old favorites, or just learn more about the arts scene on U-M’s campus right now.
I’m excited to get started. If you have any questions or requests for groups or resources to spotlight, please feel free to leave a comment!