Highlights from the 2021 Network Performing Arts Production Virtual Workshop

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Two-day event explored ‘where we’ve been and where we’re going’

By Ann Doyle, Internet2

Tuesday, April 27: I started my day early, ready to welcome 204 attendees to the 2021 Network Performing Arts Production VIRTUAL Workshop. I was both excited and a little bit sad.

The morning of this exciting gathering of technologists, educational administrators, performing artists, and faculty usually starts by walking to New World Symphony through the streets of Miami Beach, being hosed down for a fresh start to another beach day for snowbirds and spring breakers.

 Or walking the streets of Trieste, Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, London, Copenhagen, Prague —  the many extraordinary workshop locations at Europe’s finest performing arts academies. This workshop usually rotates between the U.S. and Europe and is a remarkable gathering of a vibrant, innovative, research and development — a tech savvy, creative community. This year, we hosted the workshop virtually to share what we have learned. And we all agreed we miss being with each other in person.   

I opened the workshop on Zoom. This meant 204 windows, with my colleague Kelly Faro busy spotlighting those presenting, creating a sense of “head tables,” and thoughtful panels. Even with all of the logistics involved, things went smoothly. During this virtual session, I thought about 2020 and now 2021: where we’ve been and where we’re going. And that, in essence, was the focus of this year’s workshop.  

A European Welcome, Higher Ed Panel, Tech for the Performing Arts, Capped by a Live Performance

 We began with a U.S. and European welcome with myself, Domenico Vicinanza, and a welcome from would-be 2020 host Mary Simoni from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. COVID hit too close to that workshop to pivot quickly enough and we had to cancel.   

Mary went on to share her perspective during a Higher Education Policy Panel with John Kieser, New World Symphony, Stefan Gies, AEC, and David Spencer, University of Memphis. The panelists discussed what 2020 did to the conservatories in Europe and the U.S., higher education institutions, and faculty and students all pivoting together — with both difficult and unexpected positive outcomes.  

We then had two very information-rich panels covering the technologies that work best for performing arts over home broadband networks, and a panel covering research and develop on the tools best suited for global advanced research and education networks. Many thanks to our experts Chris Chafe, Stanford; Sarah Weaver, NowNet Arts; Claudio Allocchio, GARR; Dan Nichols, Northern Illinois University; Milos Liska, CESNET; Maria Isabel Gandia Carriedo, CSUC; Sven Ubik, CESNET; and Marten Frojdo, Remote North. 

We closed day one with Sarah Weaver’s Network Arts Ensemble Demonstration with live performers from the UK, Europe, Brazil, Canada and the U.S., all of whom were confined to their homes, which is a remarkable testament to adaptability of this community.  

Expanding the NPAPW Community, Technology Highlights, and Community Input

Thursday, April 28: Day two highlighted Delma Rodriguez’s project from the Latin America-Europe Cultural Ring in Uruguay that serves as a successful model for extending the NPAPW community reach to new regions of the world. Delma worked closely with Tom Gorman of Coventry University and Justin Trieger of New World Symphony.  We also heard from a panel of musician colleagues showcasing scenarios and uses of the many technologies highlighted in the earlier portions of the workshop. Participants were Rob Hamilton of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Michael Dessen of UC, Irvine; Jesper Andersen of the Royal Danish Academy, and Tania Lisboa of the Royal College of Music, London.  

Finally, we responded to a request from the community. During 2020 many needed more help streaming and recording the events they produced online. Constantin Basica of Stanford University is an expert in these technologies and agreed to provide a tutorial for us.

“My takeaway is that technology has been essential to surviving isolation and bringing performing artists together”

The workshop was a testament to how adaptable we have all been during COVID 19. It helped capture what we’ve learned and explored how this past year will impact our future. We all agree it was a success. And we all agree we miss terribly being together, having dinner on the streets of some wonderful city while building community. 

My takeaway is that technology has been essential to surviving isolation and bringing performing artists together. And that building community is truly the reward and ongoing goal for this vibrant group of creative innovators. We will look to 2022 with highest hopes that we might once again toast one another in person!