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Multimedia festival goes virtual, challenges art limitations

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Courtesy Yuanyuan He | The Daily Wildcat The online flyer for the TURN UP Multimedia Festival for Equality, which has persevered through event cancellations by going virtual.

Like all events at the University of Arizona, the anticipated TURN UP Multimedia Festival for Equality was canceled in light of the novel coronavirus. But in a combined effort between students and faculty, TURN UP will live online, this Friday, March 27, at 5 p.m. MST on their official website.

Yuanyuan He, an assistant professor at the Fred Fox School of Music and the executive director of the festival, said cancelling the concert series was “a hard decision” because her student team spent countless hours preparing this festival.

“At first, we were all devastated. Not only because of the virus, but also everything that has changed because of it,” He wrote in an email. “How to do this art thing – an act that brings us closer together – while keeping distance?”

But He professed that the point of TURN UP has always been to prove that art is limitless. Even in its creation stages, the TURN UP festival was dedicated to equality, breaking down the borders between people and redefining art.

“This sense of belonging and connection is where the mission of TURN UP Multimedia Festival came from,” He wrote. “Art has no boundaries, as artists we all belong to the same art community. Let’s go beyond the “border” of a computer screen, free our creativity, and bring true equality to art and technology, and ALL feel connected by art.”

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She said that after a week of online teaching, she knew that even the invisible border of a computer screen can’t keep a community apart. As the festival’s motto states, “Art has No Limits.”

“But, after a week of experience of online teaching, we realized we are all creative artists and we will always find a way and we will always make it work,” He wrote. “We learned to use technology as tools to facilitate new methods of achieving the desired learning outcomes. Maybe the world is changing, but we are equipped to adapt to the changes.”

He emphasized that the virtual festival has been made possible because “technology has been constantly shaping our daily life without us knowing.”

According to He, she and her team have created audiovisual productions for each piece in the concert hall with layered special effects in order to “dramatize the aesthetic goal for each artist,” He wrote.

Gigi Ruiz, a neuroscience and cognitive science major, is part of the festival’s student team. Ruiz admitted that the situation seemed dire at first, but He encouraged the team to “carry on the spirit of the festival” in their own way.

Ruiz was inspired by this to generate a social media challenge “to promote a world of connection, despite the challenges we face,” Ruiz wrote in an email.

“We’re all stuck at home and we have plenty of time, so why not make something beautiful out of it?” Ruiz wrote. “Just because we aren't together physically doesn't mean we are disconnected, we just have to find new ways to connect, which is why this challenge really pushes anyone and everyone to create, share, and contribute something wonderful and personal to the online community.”

The challenge is as follows: create something, anything. According to Ruiz, when the hashtag gets created, students can post photos, videos or recordings of their creative flow and the team at TURN UP will share it on social media.

The distributed concert will be free for all to access at turnupfestival.org. As He explained, it is a great opportunity to prove that the internet offers new and different ways to perceive art, and these ways can be appreciated too. After all, “art is limitless.”


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