Welcome to the Arts Issue! We are so thrilled to share our somewhat annual collaboration with Spectator’s Arts and Entertainment section. This week, our issue is jam-packed with writing, photography, and illustrations focused on the arts in and around the Columbia community. From ballet to screenwriting to digicam photography, we have highlighted stories of artists and art lovers finding their way through a pandemic year that has devastated creators and performers, but also underscored the immeasurable value of the arts.
This week’s cover story highlights the creative output of three Columbia fashion influencers who took to TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram to share styles for women of color often excluded from mainstream beauty media. Monsérrat Ambrosio, Tamara Sarpong, and Djenebou Semega each bring their respective identities and perspectives to their digital content, and staff writer Lily Meyers chronicles their efforts to give representation for groups of people that have historically been overlooked.
While New York City has seen the lights go out on Broadway since last March, students like Mallory Bechtel, GS ’24, have kept up with theater remotely. Bechtel, who played Zoe Murphy in Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen in 2018 and Kim McAffee at the Kennedy Center’s production of Bye Bye Birdie, felt an urge during quarantine that she had not felt in a long time: to go to school. Now a first-year studying English, Bechtel explains to staff writer Jane Loughman that she is busy auditioning for production through self-tapes and Zoom callbacks, hoping that live theater returns very soon.
For Bechtel, theater and film have been ways for her to escape from the stress of daily life. For Eva Westphal, a Columbia College sophomore and singer-songwriter, music has been a therapeutic tool as she struggled with eating disorders and her identity. In Sophia Durone’s profile, Westphal describes how she began publishing her music on Spotify in 2017 and most recently released singles like “Dear Anna” and “Morning Shower,” where she sings about finding strength through a harmful relationship.
In her View From Here, Bella Druckman tells her story of cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen in an unfamiliar city surrounded by unfamiliar friends. To her, the kitchen has always been a community space, a place that brings back memories while conversing with family and friends amid the sounds of boiling water and grilling steak. “As each bottle hits the ground—softly, of course, because my roommates are sleeping—it feels as though I am sifting through a box of memories,” she writes.
Beyond learning to cook new dishes for “total strangers,” students have experimented with new art forms during quarantine. For Maryam Rahaman in her View From Here, the pandemic has been a time for her to take a deep dive into emo music, which she admits is a confusing, almost incomprehensible genre at first. “Until the pandemic, I couldn’t have imagined that it was even possible to grow sick of music,” she writes. “Now, I’m not so sure.”
As people were forced indoors, many artists began a period of deep introspection. Dancers, specifically, had to minimize their once expansive movements to fit within a Zoom frame. For Liz Radway, freedom from the mirrored studio allowed for greater self-acceptance and a redefined self-image. For Emma Danon, having the ability to step back from consistent training gave them new opportunities for creative expression. The two share their reflections of a year without dance performance in a pair of Views from Here.
Composers have also been forced to adapt their craft to a socially-distanced world this year, which Spectator podcast composer Matthew Lucia knows all too well. For The Ear, he speaks with three fellow composers about how isolation and physical separation redefined this year’s advanced composition class at Columbia.
Like others who were left all alone with their thoughts, Features Editor Briani Netzahuatl took her inner turmoil and turned to screenwriting. In her View From Here, she describes how her experience writing a show about her main character, Marisol, serves as an opportunity for self-discovery and growth.
And in her photo essay, staff photographer Gabi Levy showcases her newfound appreciation for a medium of the not-so-distant-past: digital point-and-shoot cameras. Alongside her dreamy, granulated shots, Levy reflects on the unique nostalgia of digicam photos and the community of photographers who share her love for the cameras of Gen Z’s youth.
We hope you enjoy this spotlight on the artists the ways art shapes our lives at and around Columbia. As always, thank you for reading!
Cole Cahill, Lead Story Editor
Noah Sheidlower, Arts and Entertainment Editor
Jade Justice, Features Editor
Briani Netzahuatl, Features Editor
Enjoy leafing through the Arts Issue!