Campus organizations have continued to hold events in a virtual format, despite the ongoing pandemic. Andrew Holzaepfel, director of Ohio University’s Performing Arts and Concert Series, said the series held 70+ virtual events during the previous Fall Semester.
“We're on our way, this semester, to doing equally or (just) as many events, virtually,” Holzaepfel said. “That’s everything from comedians to musicians to singer-songwriter nights to classical quartets to live from London Broadway shows, so we're all over the place with the type of programming we've been doing.”
Holzaepfel said while virtual events do provide the ability to reach more people, there is also a fatigue that comes along with online formats.
“Early on, I think people were … excited about it and very engaged,” Holzaepfel said. “And that's obviously become more and more difficult the longer we have existed in this pandemic environment.”
Holzaepfel said the series is also now much more involved in video editing, which he said is a challenge because it involves skills of his that normally wouldn’t be used as often under different circumstances.
“I spent a lot of time downloading videos. I spent a lot of time editing or working with students … or shooting the videos and making sure that the sound and video quality is there,” he said. “So it’s quite different than the planning for four trucks to show up for a Broadway show at Memorial Auditorium.”
Holzaepfel also said the series is in the process of rescheduling programs that were supposed to be held in person last year but were canceled due to COVID-19. With the live entertainment business being hit so hard by the pandemic, it was one of the first industries to close and will likely be one of the last groups to return to normal.
“It's been a struggle for many of our colleagues from around the state and across the country,” Holzaepfel said. “We're just hoping that live entertainment comes back soon so that these venues can survive.”
A list of upcoming OU Performing Arts events can be found here.
Dustin Kilgour, executive director of conference and event services, said event services is responsible for both operational elements, such as video, audio and lighting, as well as teams that organize and plan daily events, conferences and major events, such as commencement.
Kilgour said they have taken measures such as updating air filters, creating new capacities for event spaces and ensuring people can be safe when entering, exiting and standing in line. He said the guideline for in-person gatherings is 10 people or fewer.
“Now, there's been some exceptions provided to that for outdoor venues and entertainment venues and banquet halls, but trying to stay in tune with the guidance that the governor is giving has been one of the biggest challenges I think we've seen,” Kilgour said.
However, Kilgour said with the university’s COVID Operations team, it is able to start offering more engagement opportunities for students.
“We produced a plan of how we can do, let's say, a movie or a craft night,” Kilgour said. “In spaces where typically we could have 1,000 people in the ballroom for a movie, we only did 40 or 50 at a time so that they’re socially distanced, 6 feet apart, still masked, walking in safely.”
Similar to the OU Performing Arts and Concert series, Kilgour said event services had to adapt to using Microsoft Teams and learn how to live-stream smaller events. He also said he doesn’t see a virtual component going away, and it will be there to support the demands of student organizations and university departments that still want to have virtual events.
“What we're looking forward to is what this looks like next fall (or) next spring where we're trying to do both,” Kilgour said. “There some hybrid events that are some people in-person, but we're also doing a live stream or Teams type of event as well.”
Kilgour said there have been no issues with students not complying with COVID-19 guidelines, and event services sees how excited students are to do something in person, even if it is with masks on.
“What our department does, and what the Performing Arts and Campus Involvement Center does, is that we try to introduce creative events and culture and arts and concerts and opportunities for our students to engage on campus,” Kilgour said. “And we truly believe those opportunities are what really build the student experience at Ohio.”
Ohio University Program Council, or OUPC, is a student organization that is no stranger to virtual events. Recently, the student org held a Bachelor Night where students got to ask former Bachelor contestant Peter Weber questions via Zoom.
“This was our second annual Bachelor night where we had a previous contestant come,” Hannah Barcum, vice president and creative events executive of OUPC, said. “Obviously, this year, it was virtual because of the pandemic, so we had to change up what we would usually do.”
Barcum said participants were able to ask their questions in the chat, but their first year, they were able to have people come up to microphones and ask their questions.
“I think the real thing that people love was, they were able to come and get a picture with the person and kind of have a conversation with them, and unfortunately, we weren't able to really do that this year,” Barcum said.
However, Barcum said the planning for the event was easier because they didn’t have to find a venue or think about factors like food. She also said they did not have to cap the number of participants because it was not being held in person.
Barcum also said it is one of the organizations that is able to hold in-person events while following guidelines. She said there is a max of 50 people on each side of the Baker Ballroom and one person per table.
“We are mixing it up. One night, we might just do a movie night with snacks,” she said. “I know today, we are doing a trivia night to feed off of what The Bachelor was. We had a comedian last week, so we basically can do anything.”