The IU Auditorium is not hosting shows inside the auditorium this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, there are now several open air venues across campus.
The idea for open air venues emerged over the summer. IU Auditorium will continue to book performances in their open air venues through Nov. 20 with plans to return in the spring semester. Maria Talbert, the managing director of the IU Auditorium, said Provost Lauren Robel came up with the idea to provide opportunities for students and the surrounding community.
“In essence what the idea was, and what it has turned into being, is turning the campus inside out so that we could continue to provide in-person experiences for our IU community,” Talbert said.
There are 13 Open Air Venues across campus with eight being Campus Corner venues. These venues are smaller venues intended for 25 attendees or less.
“There's a lot to be said for the nature of what one might call kind of a pop up event where you could just be walking between classes and be able to stop for just a few minutes and hear a singer songwriter sharing their latest songs on one of these stages,” Talbert said.
On top of the Campus Corner venues, there are also five Performance Hub venues, which are larger and feature more widely attended events.
Mara Dahlgren, director of the Student Involvement and Leadership Center, said she advises the Union Board and student government and works with other student organizations to create events.
Dahlgren said one challenge is being creative with the spaces they have.
“I think it's sort of easy to do streaming events, but how do you create in-person events that are interesting and engaging that the students want to come to?” Dahlgren said. “I think everyone is sort of over looking at the screen.”
Even at these larger venues, attendance is limited to 150 people.
“It's very unique on a campus of 40,000 we usually try to create the biggest events,” Dahlgren said.
Sarah Nagy, senior associate director in the office of First Year Experience Programs, works with works with many different offices to coordinate events at open air venues.
“Some students wanted to be in person,” Nagy said. “So we're working to provide those opportunities in safe ways instead of some students trying to figure out how to do that on their own and maybe making some decisions that put them at risk.”
Each venue has staff enforcing COVID-19 guidelines, including social distancing, mask wearing and sanitizing equipment, Talbert said.
“I mean we usually took attendance, but now you're taking attendance ensuring that if there is an issue for contact tracing, which you know a year ago, you know, who thought of contact tracing as a reason to have attendance?” Nagy said.
Talbert said she hopes these open air venues are still present in the future, when the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.
“I think that the hope is that this is something that could be built into the fabric of our campus even beyond the pandemic,” Talbert said.
More information about upcoming events and booking venues can be found on the IU Auditorium website.