back to news Aug. 26, 2020

On-campus tents accommodate the arts

This fall semester, the arts will be showcased on Ohio State’s Columbus campus in ways they haven’t before. Three outdoor tents will hold spaces for physically distanced classes, rehearsals and exhibitions in the various arts units across the College of Arts and Sciences.

The tent at Browning Amphitheatre east of Mirror Lake will house classes, rehearsals and programming from the School of Music and Department of Theatre. Another tent on the South Oval across from the Ohio Union will support activities held by the Department of Dance. The final tent that sits west of Stillman Hall is managed by Urban Arts Space (UAS) and is part of its Hybrid Arts Lab umbrella, which also includes the indoor Hopkins Hall Gallery and a virtual space, UAS From Home. The Stillman Hall tent is available for use across all arts units in the Arts and Sciences.

“The tents are a way of making the arts visible on campus in ways they haven’t been before,” said Michael Mercil, Arts and Sciences faculty fellow for arts and humanities, who also is a professor in the Department of Art. “It takes advantage of the current pandemic condition to reimagine and rethink how we present ourselves to the public both within and outside the university.” 

Students dance during a hip hop dance class in a specialized outdoor tent on the South Oval. Photo credit Jo McCulty.Students dance during a hip hop dance class in a specialized outdoor tent on the South Oval. Photo credit Jo McCulty.


The three tents dotted around campus will host a diverse selection of classes adhering to local and federal health and safety guidelines that Buckeyes will be able to take in as they traverse campus. Want to hear music? Swing by Mirror Lake on Monday evenings to see the Trombone Ensemble rehearse. Interested in dance? Dance classes from ballet to hip hop to tap will rotate through the tent on the South Oval. A variety of arts classes — from theatre to music to painting — will fill the tent at Stillman, with an extracurricular event, “24-Hour Drama,”  featuring work by second-year MFA art students slated for Aug. 29.

“I really hope our friends on campus are able to have a peek into the dedication and physicality of the work our artists across all disciplines do on campus,” said Urban Arts Space operations manager Emily Oilar.

Added Sterling Tanner, a lecturer in the School of Music who leads the Buckeye Trombone Association, “Performing at the Browning Amphitheatre has provided an opportunity to safely refine our craft while providing live music weekly to our Ohio State family.”  

The tents are spacious enough to safely accommodate full classes, and while they are mostly the same, there are subtle differences tailored to the departments’ needs. The Department of Dance’s tent, for example, will have barres and special dance floor installed, while the Stillman tent will include a monitor that allows for classes to critique digital art pieces.

The tents will do more than provide additional locations for classes in the arts. They will allow artists to experiment with how art is made, viewed and understood, and they will help test assumptions of how collaboration in the arts can happen.

Tent space is limited, and programming is currently being scheduled. To inquire about the Stillman tent, contact Oilar. Inquiries about the dance tent can be directed to the department at dance@osu.edu. Scheduling questions for the tent near Mirror Lake can be directed to the School of Music and Department of Theatre.

“Artists and performers have always been a scrappy lot,” Mercil said. “We’re used to setting up in the streets and working in our garages. Improvisation, whether you’re a musician or in theater or in the visual arts, is part of what we do. It’s hardly surprising the improvisatory spirit these tents represent would come from the arts at Ohio State.”

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