Opinion | Performing arts on campus need our support

Performing arts on campus have faced a number of challenges. Now more than ever, they need our support.


Yassie Buchanan

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Columnist

Performing arts has been stifled by COVID-19. Now that we have the opportunity to see live performances on campus, we should all try our best to support the performing arts.

During the pandemic, students, faculty, and more involved in areas like dance and music on campus faced unique challenges to promote learning and the arts.

The University of Iowa Dance Department had to relocate operations from Halsey Hall to Hancher Auditorium, Hancher went months without hosting an event in-person, and the music department had to be innovative with virtual music recordings.

Chuck Swanson, executive director of Hancher, talked about the challenges of going virtual and the privilege to see performing arts live.

“We have learned a lot through the pandemic, but we have also had to deal with a lot of uncertainty,” Swanson said. “Through virtual work we were able to reach audiences who could not otherwise be there, but there is something so powerful about live performances.”

As more and more people get vaccinated, arts can come back, and they need all the support they can get.

In the spring, Hancher received a federal grant meant for art venues who lost revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Even with this grant, the future for financing Hancher remains uncertain.

Immediately following a year of struggling to transition to online events, Hancher Auditorium is experiencing budget cuts. These budget cuts from the UI will continue for the next three years, with the goal of  Hancher becoming an independent entity.

This means other measures will need to be taken. For example, there will be higher ticket prices for non-university students and incentive programs to produce more revenue. Hancher will have season cups guests can purchase and bring to performances.

Supporting Hancher is not only important for the UI community, but also for the Iowa City community, local and national artists, schools, and more.

Community venues for performing arts have the potential to really enrich communities by fostering better physical and social environments. Hancher itself does work beyond hosting a variety of performances, by working with K-12 schools to bring in artists and virtual performers to aid in the curriculum.

“We take the learning part very seriously,” Swanson said. “I think there is a really important educational piece to performing arts. We partnered with the Iowa Youth Writing Project and had student interns. We reached out to third graders across the state and had them name the fish outside of Hancher as well as write their own wellsprings.”

Now that these venues are reopening, they need our support and safety as a community.

“The live element of performances is worth so much and we have one of the finest performing arts centers in the world,” Swanson said. “Being there in the moment and seeing artists perform teaches you so much and provides shared, lasting memories.”

Seeing a live performance at Hancher is such a valuable and unique opportunity. If able, students should bring a mask and take advantage of Hancher and the performing arts on campus. For example, there is a Step Afrika! Drumfork event in September and a Dance Gala in October.

There are plenty of upcoming performances at Hancher Auditorium students can attend for $5 from now through Sept. 3. Supporting local performing arts is a relatively inexpensive way to explore a wide variety of experiences on campus while investing in the community.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.