COVID has not only made a huge impact on SUNY Plattsburgh, but it has completely changed how students do things. The staff in Myers Fine Arts building (MFA) have also been affected. These are the people who coordinate events, control technology during concerts and keep the museums open across multiple buildings on campus.
“The biggest challenge is how events are planned and executed in the time of COVID,” Dwayne Butchino, music and theater performing arts coordinator said. “Creating events has been difficult, but not impossible.”
With the safety restrictions on social gatherings, traditional performances are not allowed anymore.
In Fall 2020, the Music department put together a concert called “The Fall 2020 Music Extravaganza” which is currently available on Youtube and the Music Department website.
Butchino said he had to develop new skills to put together the video. “I was pretty happy with the end result,” he proudly shared.
One other challenge for Butchino is advertising.
“Due to the decline in foot traffic on and off campus, I have to rethink our advertising strategies to reach an audience in lockdown with hopes that they would tune in,” Butchino said.
Butchino is hopeful but realistic about the future.
“I think we’ll continue with our current state a bit longer to ensure that everyone stays well while others receive the vaccine,” Butchino said. “But as the vaccine rolls out at an increasing rate, I’m also hoping that some of the restrictions will be lifted, and that we’ll eventually get back to live events throughout the campus in the future.”
Tonya Cribb, Director of Plattsburgh State Art Museum, said that due to the lack of volunteer docents who are instrumental in running the Rockwell Kent Gallery, the Art Museum has not been able to open for long periods of time. The number of staff required to fully operate the museum includes 35 volunteers, four students and two student interns, in addition to four professional staff.
“This unusual time has allowed us to pivot and turn our eye toward other important work in the museum.” Cribb said. “For example, we have a vast collection of over 10,000 art objects that have not had a proper inventory since the collection was started, so this has given us an opportunity to address that. Our student staff members have gotten some valuable ‘behind the scenes’ experience conducting condition reports, photographing collections, updating our database and conducting research on some of our prestigious collections.”
Cribb hopes the museum will be able to be open more in the near future. Given the fact that the museum exists to ‘preserve, exhibit and interpret,’ Cribb expressed great desire in reopening it in the near future under safety guidelines to support the campus educational mission.
Ben Wright, the technical director of theater, said the biggest challange for him was the interuption COVID caused. Usually, the construction of scenery is very straightforward, but the pandemic created various unforeseen problems.
“We are at a point where we change, mature, and rethink every day. We are in a huge disruption right now,” Wright said.
Wright used to have about five students to help him with scenery, construction, and equipment specialization. However, due to the pandemic, the students are acting through the “ZOOM Theater” in their own rooms so a different method has to be used instead of the traditional.
“I might have to learn with computer drafting, potentially do more lightning and sounds. Our shows are a lot smaller, so I will have to do a lot of re-trainings myself.” Wright said.
Wright also believes that the staff of MFA have done an excellent job in adapting to the pandemic.
“For myself, it has definitely been a challenge.” Wright shared. “However, before the pandemic, I tried very hard to be professional, and it has made me sacrifice a lot. Working from home is a good opportunity for me to rethink my perspective on life and work.” Wright also thinks the future has a lot of potential, “We will see. It will be great if it’s back to normal. I think it’s too early to tell but it’s exciting because there is a lot of potential. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, we need to remember that this ‘too shall pass.’”
Wright said in his interview, “Theater, Music, and Art are human oldest forms of expression.”
The pandemic has created endless difficulties for those forms of expression and make our lives very different. However, the students can still showcase their talents with the help from the people behind the scenes, who deserve much more credit and recognition for their endless efforts in helping students’ talents to reach the mass audience.