Associate Professor, Department of Theatre at York University
Associate Professor, Department of Cinema and Media Arts at York University AMPD
Our world needs creative thinkers to ignite bold new ideas, invent transformative experiences and develop innovative solutions for global challenges. As one of North America’s premier centres for education in the arts, York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design will prepare you to thrive in a world where the single most valuable asset is creativity.
York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD) has a competitive edge in providing an integrated arts education with degree pathways as unique as its students. This, along with a vibrant student community and industry-leading educators offer emerging artists the opportunity to explore different creative disciplines inside and outside the classroom.
Engaging audiences with new technology
“There’s been an acceleration of digital production, both at the undergrad and graduate level, which is allowing us to do things we couldn’t have done before,” says Marlis Schweitzer, Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre at York University. “Our students are working with avant-garde companies in Toronto and New York. And the pandemic has forced us to consider new ways of creating and engaging with audiences.”
Restrictions on live theatre forced the school to consider new strategies to engage audiences. Students adapted to the changing environment and learned new skills quickly. They commissioned Zoom plays written with the digital format in mind. Students learned how to stream productions, create multimedia designs, facilitate digital costuming, and act for audio dramas. “This shift to digital has challenged our assumptions about what art and theatre is,” says Schweitzer. “But it’s very exciting because we’ve been able to collaborate in new ways.”
Building skills through experiential learning
Schweitzer adds students are being exposed to a larger number of careers available in the creative industries and can prepare through experiential learning opportunities. This includes building not only creative skills but also business skills, such as how to coordinate funding opportunities through grants and use technology to engage larger audiences.
Digital technology was there before, but the pandemic accelerated its adoption. Even when we couldn’t come together in person, we could experience art and creative production. This was an especially important time for the creative industries because people were socially isolated and aching to be entertained.
“We’re starting to learn how to work through remote performances,” says Patricio Dávila, Associate Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Arts at York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design. It’s not just virtual concerts that we have seen over the past year, but utilizing digital to create engaging and immersive experiences, such as through virtual reality or motion capture. We’re seeing animated music videos and even in-game live concerts, like the one done with the popular Fortnite video game.”
Creative industries contribute to economic development
The creative arts are necessary because they serve an essential human need for storytelling and contribute to our quality of life. But there is also an economic component to creative pursuits. The cultural industry in Canada is a major economic engine. And it doesn’t have the same dirty footprint as other industries. It’s a good kind of industry; not as extractive as others.
Because we have become accustomed to our media being more interactive and immersive, the expectation is this will continue. “We need to keep inventing,” says Dávila. “Our relationship with technology is a constant mutation. How we produce and consume media is adaptive, and we want to push our students to be curious critical thinkers, while also honoring their lived experiences.”
In our ever-changing world, it’s no longer enough to be a good musician or artist. Studying one’s craft, while learning business and tech skills will contribute to creating larger and more engaging audiences, which will help sustain a creative practice.