Northwestern University’s world class at-home arts streaming review – The Healing Arts

Wirtz Center's Danceworks; photo courtesy of Northwestern University

In mid-March, 2020, Northwestern University announced that the buildings housing its nationally recognized arts programs: Bienen School of Music, Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, The Block Museum and Block Cinema had been temporarily closed in order to ensure the health and safety of the Northwestern University community and its valued patrons in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Shortly thereafter, the University, whose focus understandably remained directed at supporting students and tailoring classes for remote learning, recognized that the world needs a daily dose of art and music right now. It announced that “As we navigate these uniquely challenging times, we wanted to remind you that although we are temporarily closing our concert venues, Bienen School concert video, updates, news, and more are still available to you 24 hours a day.” Subsequently, the Wirtz Center and Block Museum also opened up avenues for everyone to appreciate (even moving dozens of students’ audition materials online).

Where to find Northwestern’s world-class offerings at home

Social distancing and shelter-at-home requirements have curtailed spring’s in-person music, art and theater offerings, but Northwestern and Chicago audiences have a wide variety of options to enjoy Northwestern University’s vibrant arts scene from their living rooms.

The following are direct links to Northwestern’s press releases about the exceptional array of arts content available free to the public and links that take you directly into their vast resources:

Northwestern University Student Orchestra; photo by Evan Robinson Johnson

The Bienen School of Music’s Davee Media Library

The Bienen School of Music’s Davee Media Library offers a variety of performance and master class video highlights from recent years, featuring Bienen students, faculty, and special guests. Stream state-of-the-art video recordings of nearly 100 archived events including student orchestra, band, jazz, new music and vocal ensemble concerts, opera productions and student and faculty recitals. The library also features interviews, master classes and performances by world-renowned guest artists.

Visit: The Davee Media Library

The Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts

Beginning Thursday, April 2 at 2 p.m. “National Theatre at Home” will offer free access to previously screened productions on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel. Each title is available to stream for seven days. Productions include “One Man, Two Guvnors” featuring a Tony Award-winning performance by James Corden (pictured) and Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” featuring British comedy actress Tamsin Greig as Malvolia.

Visit National Theatre at Home for the weekly schedules.

As well, see this special offering: Danceworks 2020 video series – full length dance videos of the Danceworks 2020 showcase.

Mounted Equestrian with Cloak Ode to Marini, 1990, Purvis Young; image courtesy of Block Museum, Northwestern University

The Block Museum of Art from home

Explore highlights from The Block right from home or from the digital classroom. Browse video collections featuring full-length programs and unforgettable moments. Tune in to audio programs and recordings of lectures and conversations. Read essays and publications offering deeper insights into The Block’s projects.

Visit the Block Museum’s offerings

Art as therapy – especially in troubled times

The Chicagoland area is rich in arts organizations, dance schools and troupes, museums, music centers, and supports literally hundreds of theater venues, large and small. That they are all shuttered right now is an enormous tragedy. But anybody who has paid any attention at all what is newly being offered on radio, television, and most of all the web, cannot fail to have noticed that an enormous amount of content is becoming available from the very entities we cannot leave home to see.

Why is it so important for everybody to participate in the arts, especially at this time, when we are sheltering under mandate to protect our lives and the lives of others? The answer is: because art is a bridge between cultures, between people, and a potent healing force of its own. Art fosters empathy, allows us to reach heights of emotional expression, while exorcising morbid emotional content, and creates a channel into our very psychology: it’s a potent type of therapy all on its own.

In Art as Therapy, (Phaedon, 2017), philosopher Alain de Botton and art historian John Armstrong suggest that art is actually a tool that serves a complex and singularly important purpose in people’s lives: it can literally compensate for inherent psychological frailties in 7 different ways:

  1. Art pins down the core of significance, alleviating the natural fear of forgetting that human flawed memory generates.
  2. Art ameliorates our conflicted relationship with beauty, spotlighting optimism and hope in their myriad forms as immensely significant.
  3. People are made up of infinite levels of inner contradiction; art can help us expand our capacity for the positive but also to fully embrace and work through the negative with dignity and in companionship.
  4. Art can offer a rebalancing, a recentering of the fluid self; it holds out the promise of inner wholeness.
  5. Art can grant a form of self-understanding, by giving us insight into new concepts, and as an expression of taste and feeling; it’s a form of communication about who we are and who we want to be.
  6. Art provides for growth of the self, giving us a means to expand the boundaries of our minds, our educations, and the necessary limitations of our lives.
  7. Art gives us a welcome dose of appreciation to reach out and embrace the new, inviting the unknown into our blinkered psyches in a safe way.

See the excellent article by Maria Popova in brainpickings, “Art as Therapy: Alain de Botton on the 7 Psychological Functions of Art”.

There are many articles and books about the connection between art and healing, suggesting that art- and particularly music- has a restorative and regenerative quality; the topic is the subject of seminars, workshops and ongoing research.

String Section, Northwestern University Student Orchestra; photo by Evan Johnson Robinson

A transformative community

We caught up with Jerry Tietz, Director of Concert Management, Bienen School of Music, to get a fuller understanding of why Northwestern feels it is so important to keep students and the larger community connected to the arts.

He stated, “There’s a glut of arts content all over the web right now, and the role that the University can play is in providing real curated art. Throughout the years, each year and in the current initiative, we try to focus on what will resonate with the largest populations in the community. The Davee Media Library has a pool of resources of significant breadth and depth. There are over 100 videos encompassing everything from vocal master classes to major ensemble concerts. We consciously try to have the library reflect a highly curated spectrum of what the school is doing.”

Tietz went on to reflect, “Music has the power to be viscerally resonant in a natural and immediate way. It happens all the time. I’ve heard countless examples of someone attending their first classical music concert and being profoundly impacted by the experience. But those experiences in the concert hall are about so much more than just using your ears. There is a degree of fellowship, of community, that is ultimately transformative”

Everyone should make use of the Davee Media Library and the other resources of Northwestern University’s world class Arts Circle. Visit Northwestern arts at home to experience the enormous ways the arts can touch and expand your lives. Listen to the music, watch the cameras pan the face of musicians on stage, and be reminded of the community to which you belong and to which you will soon rejoin.

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