Professor Laura Salvaggio: Theater is her sport

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Photo from mwpai.org

Gianna Cognetti, Copy Editor

The Munson-Williams-Proctor-Arts Institute recently re-opened after being shuttered for 10 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many other museums and similar institutions still remain closed, despite a push by many for athletics to continue. 

Professor Laura Salvaggio, chair of the Performing and Fine Arts Department at UC, voiced her disappointment over the college prioritizing athletics over the arts.

“Theatre is my safe place, my community and my job,” she said. “It’s been a very strange 10 months where the thing that is a part of my identity has not existed.” 

Theatre and art is something that keeps Salvaggio physically and mentally active, and when it is taken away she is greatly affected. She also recognized the impact it has on her friends and students who both thrive off sports or theatre in similar ways. 

She said many people are hurting and she is excited to see some rejoining the activities that make them happy. 

“Sports have suffered, too,” she said. “One problem our society has is finger-pointing at someone who has it just a little better, but who isn’t at all the culprit.” 

Art comes in forms, such as music, visuals, theatre, speech and more. Salvaggio said art is a chance to understand different perspectives and increase one another’s empathy. 

“It’s ironic that during this time, where our society could use some increased empathy, the arts have not been prioritized higher than they are,” she said. 

Salvaggio is a former MWPAI employee and still enjoys going back to revisit old friends.

“People and art pieces,” she joked.

Although MWPAI is a smaller museum, it is one of the Mohawk Valley’s premiere attractions. MWPAI is known for showing foreign films and also live streaming  performances such as operas from the Metropolitan Opera House. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic caused a lack of arts in the Utica area, many other local businesses have been affected as a result. Many people would make a trip to the museum and enjoy a meal out afterward. Without the art exhibits, several restaurant businesses have slowed down. 

“For some of those businesses, it’s the difference between surviving and thriving,” Salvaggio said. “For others, it has been the difference that caused them to close the doors.”

Like sports, the arts can attribute to economic successes.

“We had MWPAI, The Stanley and Players of Utica long before the Comets were a pro team here,” she said. 

It is still uncertain why museums did not open sooner, since they usually have better air quality systems and people are not typically allowed to touch any of the art. 

Yet, it is in times like these that artists have the space needed to create their best pieces. 

“The consumption of art in live venues have stalled during COVID-19,” Salvaggio said. “But the creation of art has thrived.”


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