Columbia College Chicago launched a new program this fall called The Event Lab, a platform for Columbia College Chicago event organizers. Shannon Bourne, faculty member and Director of Student Activities, answered a few questions about the new initiative.
What is The Event Lab, and how did it come to be?
This program was developed by Student Activities and the Department of Exhibition and Performances Spaces (DEPS) so students can gain hands-on learning experiences in producing and performing live events in a venue safely during the pandemic. We want students to use this program to experiment, innovate, and define how live events are presented going forward.
All events are livestreamed to The Event Lab website and DEPS YouTube from one of our campus venues. The sound and livestream are managed by AV/Tech students in DEPS. Student Activities interns oversee the marketing and Event Lab blog which has a behind the scenes take on how the events were produced.
This semester we have programming partnerships with Event Management Practicum, Dance, Acoustic Kitchen, Student Programming Board, AEMMP Records, and XCEND Show Choir.
Although this initiative has only recently launched, has anything stood out as a major success or strength of The Event Lab?
It was great to see how happy people were practicing what they are studying again – whether it was stage managing, working with talent, performing, or running sound. You could tell everyone was relieved to have some sense of normalcy again practicing their crafts – myself included. One of the singers mentioned that she hasn’t used her voice like that in months and how good it felt. Hearing this was so gratifying because as a team we had our own learning curves to overcome when developing this program. There isn’t necessarily a playbook to follow, so there has been a lot of problem solving and experimentation on our end, as well. But as the name implies, we are practicing what we preach! We’ve only had two events so far and are thrilled to have gone from 40 views during the first show to over 250 views during the second.
What is the long-term vision for The Event Lab?
It depends on how everything plays out with the pandemic. At the moment, we know we will program through the middle of the spring semester. Our team also works on Manifest Urban Arts Festival and will need to shift our focus a bit in the spring. The Event Lab could serve as a “location” for Manifest programming, but we haven’t quite made those decisions yet. Several people have expressed interest in doing a hybrid of in-person with a livestream when we are able to gather in person. During the last show we learned there were moms watching from various states! There was a similar sentiment after last semester’s virtual Manifest. Livestream shows can expand an emerging artist’s audience, so I do think The Event Lab could continue to evolve.
What measures is The Event Lab taking to ensure the safety of the performers being hosting on campus?
Safety is our main priority with this program. DEPS developed safety protocols that are modeled after Columbia College Chicago’s Enhanced Disinfection and Cleaning Standards. All safety protocols are in conjunction with the City of Chicago’s Phase IV reopening guidelines for performance venues. Our safety measures can be viewed on our website here.
How can the college community stay up to date on programming or get involved?
We have two dates remaining this semester and are happy to discuss spring dates. Registered student organizations may apply through the Student Organization Council’s Event Lab Request Form. Faculty and staff may inquire by contacting email@example.com.