UW–Madison’s Walker reflects on how pandemic has altered the arts

UW–Madison’s Christopher Walker spoke with Madison 365 recently about how the pandemic has altered the arts in Wisconsin.

Photo of Chris Walker

In the article, headlined “ ‘There’s so much momentum.’ The pandemic has altered arts, artists, and audiences in Wisconsin,” Walker reflects on the first time he returned to an arts event in the fall of 2021, after over a year of pandemic isolation.

“The energy among the audience was palpable,” says Walker, the director of UW–Madison’s Division of the Arts and a professor in the School of Education’s Dance Department. “You could feel the kinetic energy between people, the way people looked at each other, trying to decipher the features under the mask. People worked so hard, through their eyes at making connection. I could feel it. I remember getting emotional in the room, in many rooms last fall, as people started to gather again. There is a ritual of gathering that people understand as important in their life, because it was missing for a while.”

Walker says the pandemic and the slow return to gathering has caused people to savor those experiences, but also to be more selective with what they choose to take in.

“I think that lasting impact (is) maybe not just following the crowd, because somebody said that this is a good thing to experience, but choosing that which you want to experience and making those conscious choices,” he says.

Walker also discusses how the way artists have used technology during the pandemic has increased accessibility. “Many people who didn’t have access before, can now access different arts and creative experiences or tools that unlock their own creativity through online engagement,” he says.

Walker adds that in being forced to shift to virtual performance, performance companies were able to utilize work already being done.

“We were able to make the pivot to virtual because there were people already doing that work,” Walker says. “A lot of that work was, unfortunately, underground at the start of the pandemic, and was just elevated above ground, because now that medium became the norm. But there were tons of people doing that work. And then the rest of the world got the benefit from that and started to use those platforms in those ways.”

To learn more about the pandemic’s impact from Walker and other local artists, check out the full article at madison365.com.

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