When NC State closed last spring due to COVID-19, students, faculty and fans immediately wondered what would become of the arts and theatre programs at NC State. With University Theatre unable to put on in-person shows, it was unclear how much of the arts program would generate revenue. Was this the final curtain call?
Not quite, according to Rich Holly, the executive director for the arts; however, he said the budget for Arts NC State is being reduced as a result of programming being interrupted by safety standard guidelines.
“We’re going to have a 17% reduction in our budget just by virtue of not selling tickets to events,” Holly said. “When we aren’t using our facilities, we rent them to other groups, and we aren’t able to do that. The Craft Center has a lot of community people and students who pay to take classes, and actually, they have memberships as well, and those are very much reduced.”
Arts NC State’s budget is under further review due to student fee variation amidst COVID-19, Holly said.
“The amount of student fees that we will get this year is still under discussion,” Holly said. “We know what the enrollment was and is for this semester, but it will be tougher to determine or even guess what it will be in the spring. So at this point in time, we are operating with another 8% decrease in funding.”
While a lot of the Arts NC State’s funding is up in the air, the entire department has made an admirable shift towards exciting and innovative online programming. One of the first programs that Arts NC State was able to create, with help from NC State University Libraries, was the Quaranzine, where students and faculty were able to submit artwork, poetry and videos which would be compiled and made publicly viewable, first in a virtual gallery and then in a public, online Zine.
According to Amy Sawyer-Williams, the coordinator for arts outreach and engagement, the Quaranzine proved to be a huge success and set the tone for other online program opportunities. One of the first events that had to be moved online when the pandemic was just beginning in North Carolina was the Student Art Sale. According to Sawyer-Williams, students were able to sell items they made in an online shop, where they generated over $10,000
“All of the money goes back to them, and many of them got art commissions from it too,” Sawyer-Williams said. “So actually, the virtual sale may have been more lucrative and opened more possibilities for our students.”
Arts NC State is still looking for ways to deliver theatre performances to student audiences. According to Rich Holly, there is a possibility of Arts NC State releasing prerecorded shows.
“This summer, we purchased equipment so we can do livestreaming, which allows us to have a three-camera shoot, and we’ve done two livestreams so far,” Holly said. “We have several more upcoming, and we are archiving those. So right now, we have, I’d say, three people who are pretty comfortable with the equipment at this point, and we’re training more people. So I feel like, over time, we’ll utilize that more, we’ll be able to archive more and put them on YouTube.”
While Arts NC State works to livestream more shows and content, the program already offers nine different online series for the NC State community to engage with. They also have pop-up dance and music performances that take place around campus and are also usually broadcasted to the larger public on the Arts NC State website and YouTube channels, Holly said.
Ultimately, despite the tight budget, Arts NC State has made it clear that the show will go on, whether in online galleries or streaming from the Brickyard. Wherever the curtain finally rises, student audiences are sure to be there to see truly special performances and art work from their Wolfpack community.