What does a pandemic mean for the arts?
The COVID-19 crisis has forced the widespread closures of theaters, concert halls and other cultural institutions, across the United States and beyond. Even the venues that manage to survive a prolonged shutdown might reemerge in a very different world—one that could dramatically reshape interactions between performers and audiences.
Some University of Chicago scholars and artists are already adapting to this reality. From soaring orchestra compositions to intimate home movie livestreams, these projects explore the arts in new ways, connecting to the public at a time when many are feeling increasingly isolated.
Composing for hope
Prof. Augusta Read Thomas has composed for symphonies all over the world, winning acclaim for her distinctive artistic voice. Now, she has written something tailored for a virtual performance, played by musicians quarantined in their respective homes.
Titled “Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity,” the four-minute piece was the result of a request from Utah Symphony director Thierry Fischer. Working from his home in Switzerland, Fischer asked for something that would sound cohesive without a shared physical space—but would also work once his orchestra can reconvene on stage.
Thomas completed it in just two weeks.
“I have to tailor the piece for what the project is,” she said. “That’s been kind of fun in a way. ‘Here are a lot of limitations. Now, make a piece of art.’”