CalArts Gallery Night Goes Virtual for the Covid-19 Era

Before COVID-19 shuttered colleges across America, Guerilla’s Song, a group of Chinese students and alums at CalArts, launched weekly performance actions in response to China’s coronavirus epidemic.

Presented live during Thursday Gallery Nights, the events raised awareness of the emergency and bore witness to the historical moment. Evolving in response to the developing crisis, Guerilla’s Song’s current mission is to counteract social isolation. This month, they launched MainGalleryVR, a virtual meeting and arts space recreating CalArts Main Gallery. 

“Our performance practice started in early February,” said alum and Guerilla’s Song member Changting Lu (Theater MFA 19). “Back then, Covid-19 was still called nCoV-19. Its impact was still mainly limited to China. As Chinese students at CalArts, or Chinese artists making work in the U.S., we were living in two parallel worlds. In one, we saw news, photos and articles from China revealing heartbreaking realities: people suffering from the virus, doctors fighting against the epidemic, cities locked down, words that are censored and repressed.

“In another, we see people here in the States living their usual lives as if nothing has happened. As artists and creators, we felt a strong need to bridge the gap between these two worlds, inspiring mutual understanding.”

After CalArts’ campus closed in March, Lu believed the actions needed to continue. She began working with CalArts alumni group, Flying Fire Collective, who were exploring avatar-based virtual environments. Alumna and virtual architect Anna Grossman (Theater MFA 19) imported a design of the Main Gallery into the gaming platform Unity, hosted it on AltspaceVR’s avatar-based social VR platform, and created a virtual gallery for hosting Thursday evening events.

Holden King (Music BFA 19) described the experience. “Circumstances that we have collectively met with during this outbreak left us feeling strapped for resources, starved of emotional human connection, and desperate for correct information. Flyingfire Collective and Guerilla’s Song have managed to combat that with reliable information and an emotional space in which to be whole again.”

MainGalleryVR begins at 7 pm on Thursdays and continues through the duration of California’s stay-at-home order.

Currently, access to the virtual event is limited to VR headsets and PC users who download and register on AltspaceVR. Once registered, open menu > settings and click on “enable worlds beta.” Then, go to “Worlds” and find “Main Gallery.”

The event can also be observed via livestream.

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