HCA may have experienced a shutdown, but Artistic Director Vitek Wincza didn’t slow down! We talk to him about his experiences during the pandemic, the excitement of re-opening HCA, and his vision of HCA’s future.
Health and safety is very important to HCA, particularly this year with COVID-19. What sorts of measures have HCA put in place to ensure that students learn in the safest environment?
We have extensive COVID-19 health protocols in place, which members of the public and students can read HERE. Staff and instructors have been trained extensively on our procedures.
HCA also recognizes the importance of attending to our students’ emotional health. We emphasize being kind, gentle, and supportive in the classroom – and having empathy for each student. Our staff and instructors understand that while some students may be excited about returning to the classroom, others may feel nervous or anxious – and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to feel. We have students that have not practiced dance or music in months – and our aim is to ease them back into a more structured learning environment, as well as focus on having fun and accomplishing small personal goals.
What makes the arts and arts education even more vital right now?
The arts have always been natural healers. Visual art, music, dance, theatre – all of these art forms allow us to transcend difficult experiences, process emotions, connect to others, and make sense of what’s going on around us in expressive and creative ways.
Humans are socially motivated. During the pandemic, we all experienced a separation from others and that impacted our spirits. Art is the opposite of separation – it brings humanity together.
I hope that the arts – especially live performance – will be further appreciated and have more meaning for people now. I see the arts providing an even larger role in our community now.
What are you most excited about as we head into the new school season?
I’m very excited to see our students and staff in-person again. I’ve missed the energy everyone brings to our building, and the feeling of community I get when walking through the hallways. I know HCA is a special place – but it’s the people that make it special!
I’m also very excited about our Recital Hall’s transformation into a Black Box Theatre. It’s a dream come true! I’ve always wanted to put the Recital Hall to better use for live performances; we had the capacity to do small renovations here and there, but of course, it takes a lot of funds to do anything extensive. I dreamed of a vibrant performance and workshop space that would benefit the Hamilton community. Our sister non-profit, Culture for Kids in the Arts, received approval from the Ontario Trillium Foundation for the Black Box Theatre Build – and we’ve been renovating since our shut-down in March.
We teach all of the arts at HCA, but also want to engage high level professional performances in the form of local, national, and international artist performances, master classes, and workshops. This will serve as inspiration and motivation for our students. If you’re an HCA student, what better inspiration is there than to see a world-class artist performing in the same space that you take a class in?
Eventually, we would like performances every Sunday at our Black Box Theatre – and since we finally have the facilities and infrastructure to begin carrying out the programming we envision, the sky is the limit!
Why is HCA such a unique and special place, and what’s your vision of HCA’s future?
There aren’t that many schools that house all of the arts under one roof! This great diversity – of artistic disciplines and the people who come here – makes HCA a beautiful place to learn. We’re focused on individual student growth and accomplishment…and never compromise excellence. We don’t offer competitive dancing at HCA and don’t believe in its philosophy. Our building was constructed in the early 1900s specifically as an arts institution; in these walls, we carry the history and legacy of the arts in Hamilton.
We’re constantly evolving at HCA, and I want to continually develop curriculum and a strong foundation for every single program we have, to the highest standards of education. Community-building is a strong part of my vision for HCA, so I want to continue to inspire and open up opportunities for people in Hamilton so that our city’s art scene will flourish for years to come.
What did you learn and reflect upon during the pandemic shutdown?
Everyday, I celebrated that I was still here. It made me realize that everything is fragile and precarious, and I reflected upon the value of life and community. I also reflected upon the work of our front line workers and how their important work is often underappreciated until there is a crisis.
I also became a much stronger leader during this time. Leadership is not just standing at the front of an organization, but also a process of collaborating and involving others in decision-making. Teamwork is important, and I am incredibly lucky to have such an amazing staff. Our instructors were flexible and continued to offer great online courses to our students, and our admin staff worked diligently make sure that our programming ran smoothly.
During the unexpected shut-down, we were all nervous – but we collectively forged ahead with resiliency and heads held high. And that’s an achievement I’m most proud of.