How the Chicago Academy for the Arts Became an Online School in Less Than a Week

The Chicago Academy for the Arts Virtual Benefit

This guest post was originally published at The Chicago Academy for the Arts’ website.

(Chicago) – Jason Patera stressed the arts are needed more than ever now.

“People need art right now,” said Patera, Head of Chicago at The Chicago Academy for the Arts. “Putting great work out in the world is good for the world. People are desperate for beautiful things, and we’re helping our students understand their work is more important than ever. In times of crisis people turn to arts for meaning, camaraderie and catharsis.”

Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, The Academy has pivoted quickly and offered a variety of virtual opportunities for the public and students alike.

Thank You Rast Ballet from Dancer with SmartphoneThe traditional Academy Gala is pivoting to the “Art Matters Virtual Fundraiser,” which will take place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 2. The event will feature live performances, pre-taped videos and an online silent auction. Participants online are being encouraged to dress up gala style and join from their homes.

“During these unprecedented times, people are turning to the arts to come together and heal,” said Elizabeth Vivas, Director of Development at The Academy. “The Academy has always known that art matters, but this year, that’s hitting even closer to home. The Art Matters Production team is excited for the new challenge of taking our event online.”

The Academy also is holding weekly Virtual Coffeehouse Performances, which are curated livestream performance with students, faculty and alumni. In the first event, held in early April, students performed in their living rooms, and several hundred people watched online.

Patera also is conducting online lectures where he’s discussing events like Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall Concert, which took place when the world was on the brink of war, and Goodman provided joy and comfort to millions.

“Nearly 100 years later, art still plays the same role,” Patera said.

Chicago Academy for the Arts Summer Program Virtual Open House

The school’s Theatre Chair, Ben Dicke, and The Academy’s technical director Buck Blue recently put together a virtual play. It was livestreamed and supported currently unemployed actors in The Actors Fund. Patera expects students at The Academy to create and run a similar type virtual play in the near future.

Patera also noted the school’s faculty is delivering high-quality remote learning, including ballet classes, arts classes and theatre rehearsals, all through video chat. For example, the film and animation students are creating portfolio websites where they can upload their work to be shared with a larger audience.

Patera said The Academy was easily able to adapt from an in-person facility to a virtual hub of learning.

“We became an online school in under a week,” Patera said. “When it became clear that [school closing] was about to happen, the faculty just stepped up immediately and figured out how we could accomplish things in a virtual setting.”

Related Coverage:
Chicago Academy For The Arts Instructor Patrick Simoniello Organizes Boys Take On Ballet Event
Chicago Academy For The Arts’ Student-Run AIDS Benefit Features Performers From Across The Arts


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