With the coronavirus crisis imposing restrictions on gatherings, artists are confronting a landscape where nearly every performance and exhibition is canceled. Even classrooms, where artists use hands-on techniques and demonstrations to teach students, have been moved online. But though artists are confined to their homes, that isn’t keeping them from creating new work, sharing it with online audiences, and using their current limitations to expand their creativity. PAW spoke to alumni about how they are keeping up with their work.
Carlos Miguel Prieto ’87
Music director and principal conductor of four orchestras, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico
In a typical year, Prieto conducts 120 concerts, so the postponement of all his performances means “something similar to a grieving period. It hurts me to hear music at this point,” he says. Nevertheless, he is planning to highlight musicians’ personal side by holding online conversations with members of Mexico’s National Symphony Orchestra. Mexico City’s Mineria Symphony Orchestra, where he also is principal conductor, is broadcasting its 2018 season online. One recent concert was seen by 30,000 people — 15 times the audience capacity at the orchestra’s theater. The crisis, Prieto says, will be an opportunity “to reinvent how orchestras reach audiences.”
Mariah Steele ’06
A choreographer and lecturer in the dance program at the University of Rochester in New York, and artistic director of Quicksilver Dance Co.Steele has always told her students that “limitations are a terrific seed for creativity: They help you overcome your habits and break boundaries,” she says. Now that all her classes are online, she assigned her students to choreograph a dance that is performed solely with their hands. The space on the screen of their phone or computer is the “stage.” The dances were performed and critiqued by Steele’s students over Zoom. Next, the students created site-specific dances with the furniture in the room they are Zooming from, “making choices based on the depth of field one can explore with the screen, what they choose to show in the background, and ‘entrances’ and ‘exits’ from the screen,” she says.
Crista Kende Bergendahl ’07
A classical violist with the Norrköpings Symphony Orchestra in Sweden
The remainder of the Norrköpings Symphony Orchestra’s season was canceled in mid-March, so Bergendahl, who has been its assistant principal violist since 2015, created Quarantine Concerts with her husband, Alexander Bergendahl, who works in technology. It is a platform for livestreaming concerts from the homes of musicians all over the world, with donations split among the performers each week. “While musicians have seen their entire livelihood canceled overnight, audience members have also been cut off from the experience of live music,” she says. As of late April, the site has hosted more than 55 concerts (with 24 others booked), raising about $4,000 for musicians around the world. Performances by Princeton University Orchestra musicians are featured at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Visit the website.
To see more snapshots of the creative lives of Princeton alumni artists, continue reading here.