Chair of StuCo Arts Agency Abby Rothenberg Leads Arts Week 2021 to Great Success
It's safe to say that Abby Rothenberg's passion for the arts started early.
"Ask my parents," the fourth-year Batten and Education student said. "I was singing before I could walk." That passion has been a big part of Rothenberg's UVA experience. She was the president of the renowned New Dominions a capella group and has been active with First Year Players and Spectrum Theater during her four years at UVA.
But aside from performance, Rothenberg's efforts outside and beyond the spotlight are making what she hopes will be a lasting difference for the arts at UVA. She is the Director of the Student Council Arts Agency, a longstanding organization dedicated to advocating for student artists to increase opportunities and equity within the arts. This fall, Rothenberg and her fellow StudCo Arts members launched their most ambitious and successful initiative yet – an Arts Week festival that brought together arts-related CIOs, departments within the arts, and career support resources for a week-long series of free events including performances, panels, and more.
"We really wanted to celebrate and highlight the arts at UVA broadly," Rothenberg said. "We felt like, for all of the wonderful arts opportunities here, what was missing was the opportunity to highlight all of the ways for students to experience and get involved with the arts at UVA, whether that be physical art, dancing or singing, theater, or anything else."
The inaugural Arts Week took place from September 27th - October 1st. It included an a cappella showcase in the UVA Amphitheater, a comedy showcase, multiple dance and theater performances and panels, a screening of the work of student filmmakers, an art exhibition, and more.
Pulling off such an ambitious program would be challenging in any circumstances, let alone amid a global pandemic. "It was 100% the most challenging week I have ever been a part of," Rothenberg said. "We had a lot of challenges, including space limitations for booking our events and how to present all of our events in the safest way possible, let alone coordinating with vendors, participants, and departments."
However, she and her colleagues enjoyed tremendous support despite the challenges. "So many of our members took on leadership roles, and we got phenomenal support from faculty, students, and department chairs within the arts."
Thanks to the diligence of Abby and her team, the Arts Week efforts ended up being even more than its organizers had hoped. "We were able to pull in students from all over UVA," Rothenberg said, "and got to highlight so many cool opportunities that people are just learning about for the first time."
And along with the challenges of the pandemic came additional opportunities. "I think a lot of the groups that got involved were really missing out on opportunities for the past year-and-a-half," Rothenberg said, "so for many, this was their first opportunity to share all they had been doing during COVID." An excellent example of this, she shared, was the opening night film showcase. "Most of the films had been made during COVID, so it was a fascinating look at how that influenced our work, and in this case, what these filmmakers wanted to highlight in their films. It was a really special experience."
Rothenberg hopes that these memorable experiences will continue long after she leaves UVA. "Our hope is that this Arts Week idea will continue to adapt and grow and include more and more organizations. We hope to make it at least a yearly event." The event will likely stay with her as she heads into her future as well. "I am currently studying both education and public policy, and I hope to work on increasing equity and access to high-quality education. I think the arts will always be a part of what I advocate for in the future."