University of Iowa: Lessons Learned

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"Eye Piece" rehearsal, January 2010

"Eye Piece" rehearsal, January 2010

  • Adapt to challenges and make the most of them. Hancher was faced with one enormous obstacle when a 500-year flood devastated Iowa City and the surrounding area in June 2008. The flood destroyed Hancher Auditorium and many other UI facilities. Eye Piece was scheduled to premiere in November 2008, but performances were delayed until February 2010.
  • More time was an advantage. The 15 months added to the schedule ended up improving the project by allowing Eckert approximately twice as many days on campus. He developed deeper bonds with primary partners and new relationships with parts of the campus that would not have been involved. The process and final piece were both richer and more powerful.
  • More time was also a disadvantage. Though the extended timeline had a positive effect on the overall project, it did have a downside. It was not possible to maintain connections with the medical students who were involved at the beginning. They had moved on by the time the play started to take shape. This lack of continuity also decreased participation by the original group.
  • This is an artistic process. When undertaking a complex, long-term project, allow time to find a guest artist (or artists) that fits the project. Have a strong sense of your project goals, but further develop them with the artist so that the artistic goals are central to the process. Work with an artist who is both excited and able to engage people across the campus.
  • Build shared goals and expectations among all the partners. Effective planning and communication processes will take time, but pay off. It’s challenging to keep disparate entities on the same page.
  • Build on established relationships. Hancher had worked with the College of Medicine and UI Hospitals on a number of smaller residency projects before Eye Piece. Additionally, Dr. Ed Stone of the Center for Macular Degeneration has long been a Hancher supporter.
  • Be aware of differences between campus entities. Though all part of the University of Iowa, each partner department had different planning cycles and work cultures. Try to find an approach to planning that fits for everyone.
  • Staff Transitions must be handled carefully. 3 individuals with key project roles left their jobs during the project. We worked very hard to maintain continuity with their successors, but it was not possible in all 3 cases to develop the deep understanding and commitment that was held by the original staff members. It was essential to hire interim personnel to fill those roles during the search for permanent replacements.
  • Funding matters. Obviously, you have to pay for the project, but we found that telling faculty members that the project had received grant support helped to get their attention. Faculty are aware of the pressure to fundraise and like to associate with grant-funded projects.

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