Our Experience of Art in Conversation with Life

Jacquie Sochacki-Pittman, Ohio State MFA Candidate in Dance

Jul 26, 2021

Still from the video "Performance, Interpreted"

So much of our time over the past year and a half has been spent connecting with people virtually. We changed our ways of experiencing education, celebrating birthdays, and practicing faith. We stopped large community gatherings and started participating with the world through intimate virtual experiences in our homes. We also changed our methods of storytelling, from sitting in a theater together to sitting on our couch while witnessing at-home performances on our screens. This challenging restriction of physical proximity, however, did not restrict a distinct group of students from experiencing, engaging with, and analyzing this past year’s performing arts season at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

I had the pleasure of working with a group of talented students through The Ohio State University’s group studies seminar, “Writing About the Performing Arts.” As the 2020–2021 graduate teaching associate for this course, I was often asked the question, “What is that course about?” At first, it took me a while to provide a succinct answer, as the project was a collage of so many experiences. After a year of planning, teaching, and now reflecting upon this course, I am happy to finally have an accurate answer based on my own understanding: this course was an opportunity to experience art in conversation with life.

This project, originated by Dr. Karen Eliot from the Department of Dance, started during an afternoon conversation at the Wexner Center’s Heirloom Café among Dr. Karen Eilot, Alana Ryder, and Lane Czaplinski. They explored how the Wexner Center for the Arts could be more engaged with the student population at Ohio State. The project bloomed as Eliot received the Ratner Distinguished Teachings Award, which funded a year-long group studies seminar course along with an insightful student writing publication, Risk Is a Relative Term. The course continued with a second cohort of students, this time experiencing an entirely virtual performing arts season during the 2020-21 academic year, with 12 published online articles written by students. This project is now transitioning yet again, from an undergraduate course to a student organization due to the massive budgetary changes resulting from the pandemic. But as many artists know, lack of funding won’t prohibit generating creative engagements from this group in the future.

This past spring, as we were presented with the confirmation that this course would no longer be funded, I started thinking how we could preserve some of the life that we lived together through this project. I was grateful to have received a grant from the Wexner Center for the Arts, which funded the creation of the film below, Performance, Interpreted


This past April, during a busy and stressful semester end, every student in this year’s cohort participated in the filming and creation of a digital time capsule of the year they spent working together. This talented cohort of students excelled in their studies, social commitments, and interdisciplinary endeavors. This course presented the difficult undertaking of personal reflection in conversation with performance art in a time when our personal lives were greatly strained. These students not only continued their higher education through the pandemic, but they also chose to grasp opportunities presented to them. They watched, listened, interviewed, scheduled, wrote, revised, and created. Through these actions, they reflected on their roles as global citizens, students and people. 

In addition to watching our film, Performance, Interpreted., I invite you to view the 12 published online articles on Read, Watch, Listen generated by students based on their interaction with the performing arts lineup over this past season. The students also created their own blog with over 20 pieces that include artistic creations in response to and in conversation with the performing art they witnessed over the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021. The website,, hosts photography, poetry, written reflection, music, and video all created during this global pandemic that is still lingering in our lives.

The film I share with you today, Performance, Interpreted., is a small excerpt of the types of conversations that we had together on Wednesday evenings during difficult weeks. Our time together was an intellectual salon that weaved our personal stories with the performing arts we observed. This course created a community in a time when community was difficult to generate. 

My hope is that this film reinforces the importance of intentional reflection despite the effort it takes: that it shows the value of connecting with others through art and creativity. In this course we created time and space for personal contemplation, and I invite you to do the same. Experience life in conversation with art and enjoy the possibilities that await you.


A special note of gratitude to Dr. Karen Eliot and Alana Ryder for teaching this course with me. Thank you to the team at the Wexner Center for the Arts including Lane Czaplinski, Adam Elliott and Ashley Stanton. My most sincere thanks to videographer Jeremy Schwochow with assistance with Bryan Houlihan-Johnson and Maya Neyman. And last but not least, thank you to the students who made all of this possible: Sarah Bodony, Ashley Boehmke, Jacqueleen Bordjadze, Isabel Brandt, Jackson Burkholder, Mackenzie Deighen, Emily Kilroy, Kara Komarnitsky, Abby Koskinas, Julia Romie, Manal Vakil, and Sara Wagenmaker.

Top of page: Isabel Brandt in Performance, Interpreted

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