ARTS/CULTURE: Broadway intermission is over

Photo Credit: Daniela Echavez,

by Camden Osborne and Jonas Buckburg–

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Broadway theaters were forced to close their doors in March of 2020, leaving patrons without their beloved entertainment and many in the industry unemployed. After more than a year of darkness, Broadway reopened at full capacity in September of 2021 but not without some making up to do.

The economic toll Broadway’s closure had on the industry, as well as the broader New York City, was, as one might say, showstopping. Many local shops and restaurants in the arts district struggled to stay open due to the lack of tourists. In this edition of The News Feed’s Arts and Culture podcast, we discuss what is required by fans to attend a show, the financial impacts the industry takes and makes, and how the pandemic has changed the live performance landscape – maybe forever.  

ARTS/CULTURE: Rebounding Art Market

By Evan Hughes and Patrick Cunningham

*NOTE: Header image is not the painting discussed in the podcast due to copyright laws.*

On this edition of the Arts and Culture podcast for The News Feed, Even Hughes and Patrick Cunningham discuss an article from the New York Times about a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that recently sold at auction for $41.9 million. The piece titled “Warrior” from 1982 depicts African American men’s struggles in a white-dominated world.

This edition of the podcast also discusses how the sale of the piece hopefully is a sign that the art market is rebounding after a drop during the COVID-19 pandemic, as written about in an article from Stretching beyond the art market, Evan and Patrick discuss how this is also hopefully a sign for a revival of art museums and work for artists, as the end of COVID is hopefully in sight.

ARTS/CULTURE: Performing Arts, pandemic restrictions easing

by Juan Zapata and Madeline Quiroz-Haden–

In this Arts & Culture podcast, reporters Juan Zapata and Madeline Quiroz-Haden discuss the impact Covid-19 has had on the performance arts scene in the New River Valley. With social distancing guidelines being enforced and businesses being told to limit customer capacity, many theatres, art galleries and even student run organizations have suffered.

Zapata and Quiroz-Haden talk about how organizations are doing what they can to keep business and morale high even when the only options are to appreciate the arts virtually or 6ft apart. With virtual concerts,  social distanced rehearsals and outdoor performances becoming more popular during the pandemic, it’s safe to say that while performing arts events have taken a hit due to the Coronavirus, they are finding ways to spread creativity to the community regardless.

ARTS/CULTURE: Debating Spotify vs Apple Music

Photo on

by Madison Storm, Jillian Smith–

Millions stream music daily, and the preferences of music platforms are seemingly never ending. Two streaming services have continually held high ratings over time– Spotify and Apple Music. The question remains though, which is best?

Each platform offers similar plans in regard to pricing, with options set to best meet user needs. Many of the differences come to light when comparing access to music, new music discovery, and options for things outside of music like podcasts.

In this edition of the Arts and Culture podcast, The News Feed’s Madison Storm and Jillian Smith debate which streaming platform they think is best and why.

ARTS/CULTURE: Creatively adapting

state theater

Photo by JSmith Photo on / CC BY-ND

by Bobby Trono, Sarah Wormald–

The performing arts world has drastically adapted in response to Covid-19. On a local level, Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts has moved all of its fall events online, except for the Progeny Film Festival which has physical and online options for viewing selected films.

Coronavirus complications have resulted in different creative ways for Virginia Tech artists to share their craft, one of which being an audio play called “The Cretans.” This audio drama surrounding ancient Greek myth will be presented online in three different parts early October.

Other online events include film screenings, artist lectures, and concerts that range from celebrating the 250th birthday of Beethoven to local ensemble performances.

The Moss Arts Center also has an online season with a variety of events that feature artists from their homes and performances through Zoom. However, the Moss Arts Center galleries will be open Sept. 10 for the public to view various art installations while proper protection and sanitation precautions are taken.

Lyric Theatre stands strong

BLACKSBURG, Dec. 6 – LYRIC THEATRE: The Lyric Theatre stands the test of time in an ever-changing downtown Blacksburg. Patrons who step into the building are immediately transported back into the 1930s thanks to the iconic architecture. Photograph: Sydney Gagnon

by Sydney Gagnon–

With a brand new decade on the horizon, it’s difficult not to notice how much downtown Blacksburg has changed over time. This past year alone, Hokies mourned the losses of Sycamore Deli, Poor Billy’s and Big Al’s. Countless more venues have faded from memory over time and there’s no telling which establishment could be next on the chopping block.

That being said, there is still one venue in Blacksburg that has managed to stand the test of time: the Lyric Theatre. The self-proclaimed Heart of Blacksburg is easy to spot on College Ave. thanks to its iconic architecture — a 1930s blend of Art Deco and Spanish Colonial Revival.

“The Theatre first opened in 1909 as a small storefront silent movie house,” stated Susan Mattingly, Executive Director for the Lyric Theatre. “As films became more popular, the Theatre moved three times and this is the fourth location. When it [the current building] opened in 1930, it was only the third theatre in the state of Virginia built for talking pictures.”

The advent of home film distribution forced the Lyric to go dark in 1989. Not long after, the Lyric Council was formed with the intention of restoring the theatre to its former glory. In 1998, the Lyric reopened as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Today, the Lyric still stands proud on College Avenue. It boasts a wide variety of shows for Hokies and townies to attend.

“We are a movie house first, but we like to think of the Lyric as more of a community center,” stated James Arthur, General Manager of the Lyric. “In addition to movies, we host concerts. We host all sorts of special events for the community.”

Controversy over Confederate statues

confederate statue
Courtesy of


by Nathan Brennan, Ally Larrick–

A statue that was recently revealed in Times Square has been notable for the controversy related to Confederate statues based in Richmond, Virginia. As the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond has been home to statues and monuments directly affiliated with the Confederacy for years. 

In this episode we will discuss the ongoing controversy and the importance of  remembering history, and learning from it. The ability to have conversations with architects and sculptors also allow for a more well-rounded discussion. Being able to understand the truth, and learn from difficulties in the nation’s history, will help Americans move forward. Modern statues are only the beginning of an ongoing effort to keep Americans informed, and be given the ability to learn from history. 


Inside Look: Historical Black House

Blacksburg, Va., May 7- Alexander Black House- The Black family settled into town in the mid-1700s. As one of the most influential families, their home is now a historic landmark. Photo: Madi Praver

by Hannah Bumgarner, Madi Praver–

The ornate decor of this house is often noticed by a passerby. The ruby and jade exterior and Queen Anne and Victorian style architecture certainly stand out. However, not many people are aware of its historical significance.

In the 1750s, a man named Samuel Black purchased 600 acres of land in Blacksburg. He passed this land down from generation to generation until eventually, only one member of the Black family remained in the state.  Alexander Black, a successful businessman and the creator of Blacksburg’s original 16 squares, built this extravagant home in 1897 with a certain creative vision in mind.

“He wanted to let people know that you could be prosperous here in Blacksburg,” explained Rhonda Morgan, Executive Director of the Blacksburg Museum and Cultural Foundation.

Today, the house functions as a museum and cultural center. Morgan is the heart and soul of the museum. She is passionate about Blacksburg’s history and works tirelessly to preserve it.

The Cultural Foundation functions as a non-profit. According to the Blacksburg Museum website, its mission is “to preserve, interpret and promote Blacksburg’s history, art, and cultural heritage.” Through fundraising efforts and active donors, the foundation is working hard to raise funds for the complete restoration of the Alexander Black House. The second floor of the building is currently under construction.

The museum’s exhibits are constantly changing and always have an emphasis on history or culture, as well as the community. “A lot of what we do is support local artists,” said Morgan. “That’s musicians, performing artists, writers, as well as visual artists.”

The Alexander Black House has become a gathering place for members of the community. Local businesses and organizations are also able to rent out the space to host meetings, events, weddings, etc.

Many people are drawn to the house simply because of its eclectic design, but Lori Jones, the Museum Educator, hopes to make a lasting impression on every visitor that steps inside. “I want people to stop in and ask questions,” she said. “There’s so much to say about this house and the history. All people have to do is ask.”

The popularity of the Alexander Black House is continuing to grow. TripAdvisor even ranked it among the “Top 15 Things To Do in Blacksburg” for 2019. It’s convenient location on Draper road, which runs parallel to Main street, also entices visitors who are interested in learning more about Blacksburg’s cultural heritage and history.

Admission is always free to the public and The Color Project by local artist, Darcy Meeker, is currently on display. The brightly colored artwork and sculptures outside gives the house adds even more curb appeal than before.




Building a future

by Sara Gordon–

Blacksburg, Va., April 24 — PIECING IT TOGETHER: Jimmy Atkinson, a senior at Virginia Tech in the Wood Enterprise Institute course, assembles the various pieces of his team’s product, a custom dog bowl holder. Photo: Sara Gordon

Since 2007, the two-semester Wood Enterprise Institute (W.E.I.) course at Virginia Tech has been providing students with a hands-on entrepreneurial experience to design, create, market, and sell a wooden product through their own business. According to the W.E.I. website, the course is organized as a 501(c)(3) student owned-business which operates in the Innovation & Design Laboratory and Classroom in the Brooks Forest Products Center at Virginia Tech.

The first semester of the course involves brainstorming ideas of a product to develop, conducting market research, and creating a business plan. During this time, students must present their product idea and have their business plan approved by the board, which includes students from the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials, many of whom have already taken the class.

Jimmy Atkinson, a member of the 2018-2019 W.E.I. course said market research was the most challenging aspect for his team. “I think that was one of the areas we fell short in, we did not do enough market research to see how many of these [custom dog bowl holders] we were going to sell,” said Atkinson. Currently, his team has sold 25 dog bowl holders out of their goal to sell 80.

Development, production, marketing, and sales are the main areas of focus during the second semester. The team must take their final design and begin marketing the product, followed by taking orders from customers to fulfill their production goal and shipping the final product out.

Dr. Earl Kline, Director of W.E.I., said some of the most unique products he’s seen are also those that have not had the most successful business. “The more complex a product is, the more costly it is, and to try to find a customer that is going to pay you back for that cost isn’t the easiest thing to do,” said Kline.

The College of Natural Resources and Environment reports that nearly 150 students have participated in the course since it came to fruition, generating over $47,000 in revenue, which goes directly back into the course to supply funding for future teams.

Creating the magic

Blacksburg, Va., April 22 – Tattoo: Master Electrician Erika Koekkoek’s tattoo references the “magic” that technicians create. The tattoo says, “It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done,” and features tools often used to do the job. Photo: Lizzy Street

by Lizzy Street–

While actors have their time in the limelight performing for an attentive audience, there are other workers whom the audience rarely sees.

In Squires Studio Theatre at Virginia Tech, they work behind the curtains, under the stage floor and 30 feet above the actors’ heads to make sure the show goes on. These technicians and designers use their skills in lighting, costuming, sound, carpentry and more to create a world that captivates the audience. But the cost is visibility.

“People who typically work behind the scenes are very much people who work thankless jobs,” said Chris Russo, Technical Supervisor for Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts. “It does take the right kind of person to understand that you may never get the same kind of appreciation [as actors] for what you’ve been doing for the production.”

According to end-of-season statistics assembled by The Broadway League, over 13 million people, the highest number ever recorded, attended Broadway shows in the 2017 to 2018 season. Though theater’s popularity grows, a number of technicians and designers still feel unseen by audiences – but Russo says that is how it should be.

“Part of the illusion is presenting something to an audience so that they are taken out of reality and taken into another world,” said Russo. “That means, yes, some people behind the scenes have to be in black, and they can’t be seen.”

The technicians themselves may not be seen, but their work is an integral part of creating an immersive experience for the audience. Erika Koekkoek, Master Electrician for the School of Performing Arts’ production of “As You Like It,” refers to such work as “[creating] the magic.”

“As a technician, I can make it snow on stage. I can make a sunset on stage,” said Koekkoek. “I can do so many things that help add to the magic of live theatre, and it awes me every time I do it.”

A study from Data USA says that the theater workforce has a growth rate of 2.1 percent. Despite this growth, a Georgetown University study identifies theater arts as one of the lowest-paying college majors, with a median annual income of $45,000, according to U.S. Census data.

Prospects for backstage workers aren’t all bad, though. A Forbes article recognized two electricians and a carpenter at Carnegie Hall who each made approximately $400,000 in one year.

High salaries are not typical for backstage work, but technicians and designers are not deterred. Though the behind-the-scenes workers themselves will stay out of the limelight, Russo says that he takes pride in his work and the process of creating the final product.

“Take the journey, get to the destination and say, ‘What’s the next challenge?’” said Russo. “And that’s the fun – that’s the joy of my job.”