After catastrophic pandemic hit in the arts, UI graduate artists take the lead

The pandemic has closed theaters, changed the way artists make music, and placed severe limits on live performances. From theater, music and visual arts, University of Iowa seniors look to what the future holds after graduation.

The pandemic has left a long trail of destruction. For the arts industry, people’s livelihoods were no exception: closed theaters, canceled festivals, and a long economic spell cast a shadow over many artists. Despite this, University of Iowa seniors studying the arts have hope as they prepare to graduate from a university that drastically changed curricula to give their students a year. as normal as possible.

At UI, the arts have remained vibrant. Theatrical productions were filmed for an online audience or moved to Zoom, Hancher organized an outdoor dance concert in collaboration with the Department of Dance and the School of Music made several strict adaptations to its program in order to make in-person rehearsals possible and safe. .

For Brandon Treviño, theatrical performance is his future. The senior graduate didn’t know this at first – he had come to UI as a biomedical engineering major. It wasn’t until he watched comedian and musician Bo Burham’s “Make Happy” special that his life and career ambitions changed.

“I realized I wanted to use my creative side to inspire others to explore theirs too,” Treviño said.

According to the National Endowment for the Arts, jobs in the arts and culture represent 4.5 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States. Given the increased presence of art and design in healthcare, manufacturing, and local economic and community development initiatives, a 2021 report from the organization stated that the economic impact on the arts due to the pandemic could also have widespread economic effects in these industries.

On its own, the theater department has made several adaptations to its program to give actors like Treviño a normal year. A partnership with a UI research lab has allowed the department to use saliva tests to monitor COVID-19 among actors before they come for limited in-person rehearsals, Zoom has enabled a main production to be directed from New York, and motion picture cameras were installed. in the seats of the theater to capture everything for the screen, including Treviño’s performance this year in Generation Candyland: a fable.

Treviño has big plans after graduation, including moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. The move could be just in time: California plans to reopen theaters and concert halls on June 15. The economic losses within its burgeoning creative community are significant, however, totaling more than $ 121 million and 2,700 jobs just in Orange County, according to a investigation of Orange Arts County.

The actor said that if there are any risks, the opportunity to break into the industry and the feeling of “Hollywood magic” is worth it.

“I play with the risk of failure and success,” he said. “However, I know that the skills I learned in Iowa and the development of my character here at college prepared me for the latter.

While the UI changes to their arts students made performance easier, the loss of a live audience was significant. For Trinton Parker, a second-year student in the UI’s Masters in Composition program, while composing music is something that can be done on its own, the lack of a live orchestra to perform the music can to be boring.

“We write to be played. We’ve all had to deal with the removal of performance opportunities, ”said Prater. “The University and the School of Music gave many opportunities to record projects and concerts remotely, so I was always able to improve my work and continue to grow despite everything.”

Prater will publish his master’s thesis Memory III / IV: Chimaeram May 9, which involves the idea of ​​moving from one place to another. Next year, Prater will pursue his doctorate. of composition at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where they will work as a technical assistant for the electronic music studio of Eastman EARS (Eastman Audio Research Studio).

Prater said they hope to eventually work as a music composition teacher to forge relationships within the music industry and help advance their own creativity in the process of educating others.

In the words of printmaking student Alex Fox, the job market is “not nice” right now for those working in the creative fields.

The two entry-level jobs he managed to find where he wanted were a cartoonist at the zoo and a job in making furry costumes.

“[It] would be a little funny, but not ideal, ”Fox said.

At UI, the artist organized his very first art exhibition, a BFA exhibition that he called Facade, end of April. Incorporate paint, fabric, cyanotyping and etching into various body shapes, Facade explored how the identities presented by a body may be different from its true identity.

Fox said the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic marred many parts of his final years in art school. What he described as the once vibrant and lively visual arts building he loved became silent and the time he had spent surrounded by like-minded classmates was slashed into limited capacity studios.

In addition, in the summer of 2020, Fox’s art internship in Berlin was canceled. Fox said the internship was one he felt was his chance to be seen as a “serious” artist, and the loss hurt his self-esteem and motivation. He did all of the things recommended to him to polish and improve his CV, but ultimately it depended on forces beyond his control.

After graduation, Fox plans to move to Chicago and open an Etsy store – his first attempt to sell his work.

“There’s a lot of competition out there, so you have to really like to focus on yourself and kind of build your confidence, and bond as an artist, those are the two things I’m working on.” Fox said.

Josie Fischels, Maddie Johnston, Delaney Orewiler, and Tatiana Plowman contributed to this article.

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