Chico State arts programs are planning for a semester online


John Ramirez

A sign posted on the window of the Laxson Auditorium box office stating all Chico Performances, North State Symphony and School of the Arts shows have been canceled.

With the university’s shift to online instruction, many arts programs have found new ways to adapt. With in-person classes already canceled and potentially next semester, events are being reimagined for a digital audience. 

Companies like School of the Arts and Chico Performances that host a number of the university’s music and theatre events have been directly impacted. 

“In early March, Chico Performances canceled the remainder of the season, which would have included shows through the first week of May,” marketing coordinator Rachel Simmons said. “In total, [we] canceled nine performances.” 

Events, such as “Book in Common,” which was originally scheduled for April 2, have been redesigned. The event, which featured author Lauren E. Oakes, was held as a free Zoom webinar on April 22.

Chico Performances is keeping a close eye on how the pandemic develops and may opt to start events later in the year, according to Simmons. 

“We may need to space out patrons in the venues,” Simmons said. “We are looking at how we keep our venue staff and volunteers safe through masks and gloves.”

Director of Chico Performances, Stephen Cummins also commented on these changes.

“Artists need rooms full of people, and the thing that is so tragic about this is that the one thing that we want to do as a society is gather together and celebrate and the arts are for celebration together,” Cummins said.

However, with the rise of live streaming and online shows, he said that curating these events might be something they’ll look into for the future.

“I’m so thrilled to see comedians and bands performing on the internet,” he said, adding that “leading people to some of these events” could be something Chico Performances does if circumstances continue.

“Eventually we’re going to come back and there will be singers and live performances again,” Cummins said.

Professor Paul Young of the Music and Theatre department commented on how productions at the School of the Arts have been affected and on a brand new course underway for the fall.

“In the fall, regardless of how this goes, I think we’re going to be a lot more [centered around] social media and streaming platforms for our artists than we did in the past,” Young said.

He explained that the class will focus on digital marketing for local artists by the School of the Arts students.

“The students will pick artists that they will work with for the entirety of that school year, so they will actually be managing and developing artists and it will be digital marketing focused whether or not we can actually have concerts again,” Young said.

According to Young, this is an opportunity for students and artists to work together and promote local musicians, bands and performers of all kinds.

“There will be a lot coming from SOTA productions,” Young said. “There’s no cookie-cutter method to arts development.”

North State Symphony director Elizabeth Quivey described the current state of its performances and explained that two concerts, originally scheduled for April were canceled, along with events in May.

“It’s difficult to say exactly what the price tag is from the loss of two canceled [concerts],” Quivey said. “We lost a lot of ticket income. However, we didn’t have concert production costs like venue fees, truck rentals and sadly, musician performance fees.”

Quivey said that if the symphony is able to hold events by summer, they have a full-scale lineup planned for its 20th anniversary. However, if shelter-in-place precautions remain, there are alternative plans to provide live music.

“(North State Symphony) staff have been having many inspiring conversations about the reality of what next season could look like. We’re committed to providing live music to our communities while being sensitive to and in compliance with public health and safety guidelines,” Quivey said. 

Quivey added, “We’re pursuing some creative options and really thinking outside the box. Classical music tends to follow a very traditional model, and this is an opportunity for us to toss aside the rule book and experiment with new models of bringing music to both dedicated and new audiences. Our goal is to bring live music back to the North State as soon as we can, to as many people, and as safely as possible.”

Plans for campus-based arts programs are changing as new information becomes available. Updates can be found on SOTA’s website and Chico Performances

Danielle Kessler and Kati Morris can be reached at [email protected].