Skip to main content
First Word

What’s the future of the arts?

We asked these Northeastern students and alumni to predict the future of visual arts, music, theater, and literature — after COVID-19 and beyond.

By Schuyler Velasco

Theater that’s interactive, by necessity
Theater is about being together in a space. Now that performances are happening on Zoom and streaming services, the pandemic has forced the question, “why is this theater? Why isn’t this a speech, or a movie, or a TV show?”  Experimental artists have responded with really cool interactive work. I participated in a project the [theater duo] 600 Highwaymen did called A Thousand Ways. It was an hourlong, moderated phone call between me and a stranger, and we were prompted to answer questions. We got to know each other very intimately without learning each other’s names. There’s nothing like it on Netflix, and it’s very powerful.

Pablo Hernandez Basulto, CAMD ’18, is the public works national associate at the Public Theater, coordinating community outreach and free live theater opportunities in New York City.

More power for musicians, driven by social media
Thanks to social media, independent and younger artists will have more access to resources previously only accessible to major label artists. In 2020 alone, 70 artists signed major label deals after being discovered on TikTok. These artists have more leverage because they reached an audience before a major label got involved. 

Aidan Fox, D’Amore-McKim School of Business ’22, an R&B and pop musician who performs as 2LATE. 

New music genres
We’re in a hyperpop renaissance right now. Mainstream pop acts like Charli XCX are pioneering a distorted, innovative, hook-heavy sound. But artists like 100 Gecs, [the late] Sophie, and labels like PC Music, have been playing around in that landscape for a long time. They share a lot in common with emo-rap and pop-punk. It’s often made by really freaked-out people on their computers. For obvious reasons, I feel like we’re only going to get more of that.

Sidney Gish, CAMD ’20, an acclaimed singer-songwriter and 2018 NPR Artist to Watch.

More diverse stories for kids
In 2013 there were five times as many children’s books about dogs and trucks as there were about all children of color. Today, 80% of the books published feature a white male protagonist or an animal, and 20% account for all children of color. Thanks to digital innovation and the streamlining of the story creation process, that’s starting to change. I think we will see the rise of more  authors who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color, and more small, indie publishing houses that can make sure those authors have a voice. 

Sailaja Joshi, D’Amore-McKim School of Business ’06, Founder and CEO of Mango and Marigold Press, an independent publisher of children’s books about the South Asian experience.

Larger than life art
In the visual art world, everything is going to be really big in size — bigger than anything we’ve seen before. You’ll get art the size of cities created with virtual reality, installations you can walk around in, and paintings and murals that take up entire walls. It’s a combination of artists trying to one-up each other on social media and richer and richer clients paying for bigger and bigger pieces. For artists, it’s a better economy of scale. If you can sell one piece for $1 million instead of thousands of small prints, that can set you up for years and give you the creative freedom to push the boundaries on other projects. 

Dylan Morris Steinberg, CAMD ’24, a visual artist with a focus on typography who works in disciplines including collage, photography, and experimental abstracts.

Published on

Schuyler Velasco is Experience's Senior Editor

Illustration by Mar Hernández


The Experience Playlist: Together

A Spotify playlist of songs to bring us together — from Prince, CeCe Peniston, Dua Lipa, The Replacements, and more

By Ceci Menchetti