As Fall Quarter 2020 begins, UC Santa Barbara’s Arts & Lectures program is making its final event preparations while bracing for a school year full of uncertainty and change from the coronavirus pandemic.
“When COVID-19 first hit, A&L canceled 29 events between March 12 and May 17, including some of our most popular,” Caitlin O’Hara, Arts & Lectures (A&L) senior writer and publicist, said in an email to the Nexus. “We were saddened to make that decision, but of course safety for everyone — our audience, artists and speakers and staff — was our primary concern.”
While A&L usually produces over 100 events every year, social distancing and quarantine restrictions resulting from COVID-19 forced the organization to find new, innovative approaches to event creation.
“Happily, we have been able to reschedule many of these events, which we nicknamed ‘Worth the Wait,”’ O’Hara said.
In summer 2020, A&L celebrated the 11th annual UCSB Summer Cinema at the West Wind Drive-In movie theater in Goleta. This event would typically be held at the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Garden, where a weekly series of free outdoor films would be shown. However, due to COVID-19 safety precautions, A&L made the move to the drive-in theater instead.
“We were able to bring food trucks and entertainment for attendees to enjoy before the show,” O’Hara. “The series was a fantastic success, providing a fun Santa Barbara summer evening that the community could enjoy together while still following safety guidelines of the CDC and other authorities.”
Now, A&L is showcasing a variety of free films at the West Wind Drive-In, with the program starting on Oct. 13 and continuing through Dec. 16. Through recommendations and input from UCSB students, A&L selected a mix of films curated for any audience, according to O’Hara.
As for the upcoming season, A&L Miller McCune Executive Director Celesta M. Billeci explained the variety of approaches the organization will use to provide its audience with the full A&L experience.
One series she pointed to is called “House Calls,” during which audience members can log onto virtual calls with public figures like musicians, economists, comedians and more. All events will be free for all UCSB students.
“The up-close-and-personal effect of having someone perform or speak right to you is very special,” Billeci said in an email to the Nexus. “Plus, we’ll be incorporating elements to maintain the unique and communal aspects integral to live events, so it’ll be an experience unlike any other.”
Starting in February 2021, A&L hopes to once again hold live, onstage events featuring dance, lectures and book talks, depending on how the battle against coronavirus develops, according to Billeci.
Scheduled events include performances from the Joffrey Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well as lectures from Chef José Andrés and authors Pico Iyer and Ann Patchett. Again, however, the execution of these live events is dependent on the progression of public health guidelines as time goes on, and A&L is continuing to monitor this development as February draws near, according to Billeci.
“When we can get back into the theater and experience live events, we will be ready,” Billeci said in an email. “We know there’s a lot of uncertainty right now, so we’ve adapted our return policy to fit the times. Purchase now with the confidence that if for any reason you are unable to make an in-person event, you can receive a full refund.”
A&L will also host events for this 2020-21 season that reflect the tumultuous political and social climate through a series called “Race to Justice.” The series will feature speakers like authors Ibram X. Kendi and Ta-Nehisi Coates and include collaborations with UCSB departments, such as the Department of Black Studies, Center for Black Studies Research and Division of Social Sciences, according to Billeci.
“Leading activists, creatives and thinkers will expand our understanding of racism and how race impacts society to inspire an expansive approach to advancing racial equality,” Billeci said.
“Race to Justice” events will be held virtually through the fall and winter quarters, with A&L hoping to move lectures in person by this spring.
A&L also plans to focus on education and community engagement for students, faculty and parents at UCSB and will continue to host its educational programs for K-12, UCSB students and beyond through master classes, panels and lecture demonstrations, according to Billeci. As of now, all events will be virtual due to the pandemic.
“A&L has always worked to build a more connected, thoughtful and compassionate community, and we’re doubling down on those efforts at a time when parents, teachers and students could all use a little more help being educated, entertained and inspired,” Billeci said.