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Artistic Planning


The Clarice: NextNOW Fest 2021

Over the course of about nine months, I led the idea generation, partnership-building, on-site venue walkthroughs, contingency planning, and event execution for seven separate festival events at NextNOW Fest. Ranging from a virtual reality and projection experience to a live podcast conversation to a crochet workshop, I planned a variety of festival events in partnership with a number of different student organizations and an off-campus group. Each event took place in a different venue and required a diverse set of demands for its success.

With each organization, I led the dialogue in meetings to plan every detail of the events, which helped me learn the importance of thinking through even the smallest details to guarantee success. For example, Creative Baggage, an off-campus podcast duo, held a live podcast recording session in which they posed questions about creativity to audience members. We thought about multiple venues within The Clarice for hosting the event, but we landed on Leah Smith Lecture Hall due to the small, intimate feel of the room, which matched the mood that Creative Baggage hoped to achieve through their event. Another bonus of this venue was that the entrance allowed for quiet entry by attendees in a more calm area of the physical festival footprint, reducing the risk of sound bleed from outside the venue. It was essential to use a venue that would allow for attendees to enter quietly without interrupting the conversation or causing intermittent sound to make it onto the podcast recording. During a venue walkthrough where I FaceTimed the members of Creative Baggage to show them the space, we collaborated with a production coordinator to plan the layout of the space. The planned layout involved the podcast co-hosts on stools (which needed to be added to the space) with the festival attendees in the lecture seating already in the room. Closer to the festival, we purchased bean bags for the festival attendees to sit in during the conversation. Once the podcast co-hosts were in the space just a few hours before the start of their event, we adjusted our plan to involve the co-hosts sitting on chairs behind a table on the stage of Leah Smith Hall with attendees in the bean bags close to the table. Any scheduled guests on the podcast would sit alongside the co-hosts in chairs at the table. Plans for the layout needed to abide by fire safety guidelines to allow for enough egress for patrons to escape in the case of an emergency. Early on in festival planning, we also had to consider capacity restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but these capacity restrictions were no longer in effect by September. There was a high level of logistical planning that went into the physical setup of each event.

Because I went through the process of planning each detail for a number of diverse events, I better understand the extent to which each event must be thought out. When I attend arts events, I look around and see the various ways that administrators meticulously planned aspects of the event: safe and accessible entry and exit points, signage, health and safety protocols, food and drink, staffing positions, an inviting entrance, and many other elements of the physical space and event composition.

Perhaps my biggest lesson learned was the importance of carefully crafting the audience members’ entry into the room. This was of particular importance during Flower STEM’s virtual reality and projection experience, which had technological demands in addition to artistic aspirations. Below are some questions I would ask myself while in the venue to plan an event:

How can we dress up the exterior of the venue to accurately portray what lies inside?
How can we dress up the exterior of the venue to encourage audience members to enter?
What is the first thing that an audience member sees inside the venue?
Are there any elements blocking an audience member’s entry?
Are there any elements that may deter an audience member from entering?
What can an audience member see along their physical walkway through the space?
What physical elements can we move around to increase audience engagement during the event?
Will all audience members have a (more or less) equal experience of the event from their seat/position?

Going through this series of questions in addition to any event-specific concerns helped me to successfully create a curated audience experience for each event that I planned.



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