May 26, 2020

An Open Letter to Arts Students

Sarah Bay-Cheng sits on a stool on a stage
Dean Sarah Bay-Cheng.

Dear AMPD students:

Amid all the current uncertainty, it’s hard not to look at the recent past with longing. Remember when going to a restaurant or a movie was no big deal? In such moments, it can be tempting to wait for things to just “go back to normal.” But it’s not clear yet what the next “normal” will look like or when it may come. Some things may resemble what we remember; others will be forever different. While this uncertainty can be a cause of anxiety, it also offers a rare opportunity.

Students present their Digital Media capstone projects to Dean Sarah Bay-Cheng (right).
Students present their Digital Media capstone projects to Dean Sarah Bay-Cheng (right).

Emerging artists, designers and scholars entering university today have a rare opportunity to explore what we do and how we do it. Those who participate in this exploration, will set the stage for the future of creative practices to come. Although it may be tempting to just wait and see, now is the best time to take part in these changes and to determine what kind of future we all will have.

Beyond the university, industries are rapidly changing. Arts education will evolve as well, working together with community and professional partners to navigate rapidly shifting fields. Students learning today have the chance to participate in these industry shifts from the very beginning and to prepare for whatever comes next. This is what real experiential education is all about. It’s not just about adapting to these changes, but having a say in what comes next. Students who enrol this year will have the most up-to-date information and insight into the future of arts and culture.

At the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design, this is what we’re committed to doing over the next year and beyond: to helping learners across disciplines navigate these changes, prepare for what comes next, and be a part of a sustainable future for the arts in Canada and beyond. It’s not just about making things different; it’s about making them better.

But we need you.

If only a few people participate in defining the future of creative and performing arts and design, then the social changes to come will benefit only a select few. In the wake of COVID, we have seen just how essential the arts are to our collective and individual well-being. We cannot afford to lose a new generation of voices. To ensure a sustainable and inclusive future for the arts, we need many different perspectives, including yours.

Dancer balances on one leg.
‘Immortal’ by the York Dance Ensemble

So whatever you do, don’t give up. And don’t sit this one out. You have the opportunity to drive the changes that will define the future of creative arts and industries. A former teacher of mine had a favourite saying: “Good things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

At AMPD, we’re not waiting. And we’re not looking back. We’re working to define what comes next and to expand what’s possible. More than anything, as a community, we’re committed to ensuring that these changes work for everyone.

That’s why I hope you’ll join us this fall. However we’re working this year, it won’t be primarily about equipment or technology or buildings. It will be about people and ideas and imagination. We will learn to communicate differently and to collaborate in new ways. It will not be easy, but these lessons will be essential for our collective success in the future. I invite you to be a part of these changes with us. To collaborate on creating a new and exciting future for the arts in Canada. We need you and your ideas and talents to define this future.

We can’t wait to get started.

Sarah Bay-Cheng


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