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2020 Design Showcase West – presenting the bright lights in the darkness of the pandemic

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This week, theater design graduates from all across the country are participating in the 2020 Design Showcase West. UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television has presented the showcase for over two decades with the goal of introducing emerging entertainment design talent to the eyes of the industry. However, this year’s showcase is special. For the first time, the showcase will be presented virtually. Much of the nation’s arts organizations have had the difficult decision to quickly improvise as Covid-19 has shuttered the possibility of large gatherings and UCLA has made the bold decision to present a virtual showcase. Interested in the changes the pandemic has already set in motion for industry, we reached out a recent graduate who is presenting their design work as part of the showcase and discussed the implications they’ve experienced so far in quarantine shutdown, virtual graduation, and how they as the future of the industry are looking forward to the entertainment industry’s return.

Vivienne Liu, a recent graduate from Carnegie Mellon School of Drama’s MFA Scenic Design program, presented her work at the 2020 Design Showcase West. After receiving the George Kimberly Award for Scenic Design, she was selected to represent Carnegie Mellon at Design Showcase West. 

The onset of Covid-19 and the following statewide-shutdown proved jarring for Liu, as she went from development on her thesis to having to move out of her studio at Carnegie Mellon. The surreal escalation of events sparked the question for Liu of, “how do we work from home as collaborative designers.” Quickly, as many adopted virtual modes of collaboration such as Zoom, Liu found her worry of collaboration getting lost to transform into excitement about how the pandemic is actually opening up more opportunities than ever for collaboration.

“As everyone is getting used to Zoom meetings and 3D modeled/digital renderings, I find that there are actually more vehicles to present my work to collaborators now, and the pandemic has allowed me to connect with many artists virtually,” recalls Liu. “The more we get used to working virtually, the more we embrace this, I think we will start to see less unnecessary travel for meetings which encourages international collaboration that would have been too costly, and a reduction of the dependence on physical scale models which are both time consuming and expensive. The more we can collaborate digitally the better.”

Liu sees the pandemic broadening the opportunity for international collaborations in the entertainment industry and feels “the great thing about the Design Showcase West being virtual is that a broader segment of the industry (not limited to LA, but even those in New York and London etc) have a chance to see our work,” said a smiling Liu,  “and as a designer who has worked both in China and the U.S., I have always viewed the industry globally, and I’m interested to see how international collaborations can become less taboo and easier as people are more comfortable with virtual substitutes for our work.”

Graduating this year during the pandemic has been undoubtedly challenging in many ways, but for Liu, “it also provided way more opportunities to explore how we create entertainment. In many ways, we are privileged to be here and use our skills and imagination to create something new for the world to see next. I hope that the industry can embrace the new, and celebrate the interconnectivity that our advances in technology offer us. I’m excited to see what collaborations I can forge and I value the opportunity Design Showcase West has offered us to present our work to leaders in our field and foster communication as we take our first steps into the industry.” 

You can see Vivienne Liu’s work on the Design Showcase West virtual gallery which goes live tonight at the following web address: https://www.designshowcasewest.com/ You can also learn more about her work by visiting her website: www.vivienneliudesign.com and be sure to follow her on instagram by following @vivienneliudesign.

Sharon was always fascinated by the workings of the human body and for her, nothing was better than being a health news journalist. By creating news pieces for the latest happenings in the world of human health, Sharon aims to create awareness among the readers to help them include better and healthy options in their daily lifestyle.

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