PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As Joni Mitchell once crooned, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.” Such was the case when, in spring 2020, theaters, concert halls and art galleries shuttered indefinitely to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus — leaving many to realize, some for perhaps the first time, exactly how integral a role the arts had played in their lives.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, artists across the United States and the world, including those at Brown University, suddenly found their projects stalled, their commissions canceled and their artistic friends out of work. But as they found innovative ways to move their art to digital realms, many noticed a heartening wave of both moral and financial support — a sign, arts leaders at Brown said, that a larger number of people had begun to recognize the indispensable role of the arts in shaping, reflecting and challenging all aspects of society.
On July 1, 2021, the Brown Arts Initiative became the Brown Arts Institute. Far more than nominal, it’s a change that not only reflects the world’s increased appreciation for art but also communicates the centrality of the performing, visual, experimental and literary arts on College Hill.
As the BAI transitioned from initiative to institute, Faculty Director Thalia Field and Artistic Director Avery Willis Hoffman answered questions about how Brown’s arts hub innovated during the pandemic, what’s ahead for the institute and what to expect in the coming 2021-22 academic year.