Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

In the wake of the postponement of Yale Schwarzman Center’s opening due to COVID-19, the center celebrated a virtual “soft-opening” with the release of a website prototype on Oct. 13.

Originally slated to open in time for the start of the fall 2020 semester, the center will instead open in 2021. University officials intend YSC to be a central part of student life and the arts when it opens for in-person gatherings. For the time being, the YSC team is working to accomplish the same goal with virtual programming in the form of talks, classes and other online events. The virtual hub has greater goals than a mere website: The online programming aims to create a melting pot of cultural and artistic collaboration among members from all corners of the Yale community.

In an email to the News, YSC Deputy Director Laura Paul shared that the release of the prototype reflects the center’s commitment to connecting groups that do not always have the chance to interact.

“The decision to roll out a prototype mirrors the collaboration and community engagement that underpins our approach to programming overall,” Paul wrote. “The YSC solicits input from stakeholders across a wide range of groups including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members to help shape programming.”

According to Paul, the virtual programming will not be phased out with the opening of the center in 2021. Instead, the center is looking ahead at ways to integrate in-person and online aspects of the YSC’s programming even after it opens in-person. All Yale community members can participate in the virtual programming.

“Over the next several months, we’ll be soliciting user feedback and using it to inform both short-term improvements and longer-term web development beyond the YSC’s physical opening,” Paul said.

Although in-person programs have been delayed until next year, YSC staff are spearheading numerous virtual initiatives to engage people in anticipation of the in-person events in 2021, some of which have been in the making for several years.

One such example is the center’s Vernacular Dance Festival, which will take place in person after YSC opens. Gabrielle Niederhoffer ’23, a project coordinator for YSC, initially proposed the idea for the festival in her first year at Yale. She has been planning the event for two years in conjunction with Emily Coates — director of the Yale dance studies concentration and associate professor of theater and performance studies — and YSC staff. In the meantime, YSC is hosting virtual dance classes, as a lead up to the in-person event in 2021.

“Last week, YSC hosted a community class with world-renowned tap dancer Dormeshia. Dormeshia will be the first Choreographer in Residence at YSC and will work with YSC leading up to the dance festival,” Niederhoffer shared. “After the class, I interviewed Dormeshia about her work and mission. YSC, CT Dance Alliance and University art presenters came together to showcase dance in CT and share how each is working with choreographers and dance.”

Another project Niederhoffer is involved in, Yale Dance Lab’s “Transpositions” project, also showcases the collaborative nature of programming on YSC’s website. “Transpositions,” hosted by the YSC, features a series of dance sessions in partnership with Yale Dance Lab. These sessions will connect student dancers with choreographers around the world to produce collaborative dances that will premiere on the YSC virtual hub.

The hub also features “Storyboard,” an interactive virtual platform that allows students to share ideas, create stories and collaborate on in-progress projects. Students currently working on their own multimedia projects can find resources to facilitate the completion of the project on the platform. YSC is also using the platform to release prompts around which students can center their work. 

According to a press release by YSC, the center has announced that the “Storyboard” platform is currently open for multimedia entries for the first prompt, “off the grid: projects for the moment,” which asks participants to take into account themes of “adapting,” “resisting,” “reflecting,” “re-energizing” and “re-imagining” during their creative process.

“We are interested in students’ creative responses when considering how they are navigating space, change, and truth in an ambiguous and fluid time; to take a step back and reflect on how they are rediscovering, confronting, unlearning and relearning new normals,” said YSC Associate Artistic Director Jennifer Harrison Newman in her statement in the recent press release.

Entries can be submitted until Nov. 13 by uploading to the YSC virtual hub’s Storyboard feature.

The Schwarzman Center began construction in 2018.

Sydney Zoehrer | sydney.zoehrer@yale.edu

Correction, Oct. 20: An earlier version of this story stated that the first prompt for the Storyboard feature was “off the grid: projects for the movement.” In fact, the prompt is “off the grid: projects for the moment.” The article has been updated.