UCI News

Art and soul

Social media project underscores common humanity during crisis

by Eliza Partika, UCI | April 6, 2020
Art and soul
The Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ #UCIArtsAnywhere project encourages people to post photos or videos of themselves engaging with the arts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Courtesy of Claire Trevor School of the Arts

In this age of physical distancing, with classes being held remotely and individuals being encouraged to stay 6 feet apart, students and faculty in the Claire Trevor School of the Arts have created an innovative way to keep the arts alive on campus without personal interaction.

It’s called #UCIArtsAnywhere, a collaborative social media project in which people post photos or videos of themselves engaging with the arts.

“Artists are nothing if not resourceful,” says the school’s multimedia specialist Emily Zheng, who kick-started #UCIArtsAnywhere with marketing and communications director Jaime DeJong. “We can always be counted on to make something out of nothing.”

Their creation has been live since mid-March on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The project began with students who had previously done “takeovers” of the school’s social media accounts during performances and events posting from home about their continued participation in the arts.

On Instagram, for example, they’ve been sharing videos of improvised dances and abstract paintings. One undergraduate filmed himself riffing on the saxophone; another filmed herself learning pieces on the piano. And faculty members have begun to post recordings of their Zoom meetings and movement and dance workshops.

“This campaign helps us see how students are adapting,” Zheng says. “It’s very inspiring to see them take the spaces they have at home – like a bedroom, yard or garage – and turn them into makeshift studios to practice their art. This situation has led us all to think about how our art forms can be fitted to the digital space and how we can use it to grow ourselves and still challenge each other.”

Artists are reinventing their craft as they “DIY” their way. Drama students have adapted their quarterly improvisational “30 Plays in 60 Minutes.” It’s one of many projects in which students and community members are tagged to take part in the action.

Stephen Barker, dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, says that #UCIArtsAnywhere uses 21st-century technology to address the current need to avoid face-to-face contact and also forces artists to consider what makes a digital performance relevant, impactful and satisfying to viewers.

“Even though this is temporary – a new abnormal – it’s vitally important that the arts continue to play their central role in society as an agent for deep experiences, entertainment and community well-being. The fact is that the arts are a great source of nourishment, demonstrating the power of imagination and creativity – especially in the face of a crisis,” Barker says.

“This campaign could have been dead on arrival if our students had not bothered with it,” Zheng adds. “Luckily, they seem to be a sharing bunch. And I will keep sharing their posts on our feed in an effort to heighten this community spirit.”

She and DeJong are eager to see student, faculty and community contributions and plan to continue #UCIArtsAnywhere for the duration of the global confinement. Additional social media projects are in the works.