Extraordinary Resilience - Mackenzie Roth '17
When discussing the global industries that have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fine Arts are often left off the list. With traditional venues currently closed to the public, and several revenue streams temporarily suspended, connecting patrons to artists and their work has become a greater challenge than ever before. Now, by harnessing the full potential of social media, Mackenzie Roth ’17 is using new technology to bring attention to an age-old art form.
As a 4th-year glass artist at Alberta University of the Arts (AUArts), Mackenzie’s incredible enthusiasm is immediately evident when discussing her craft. “Glass blowing is an immersive, all-senses experience. You feel the heat, see the glass take shape, smell the materials, hear, all of it. It all comes together to create a sort of artistic overdrive.” It is therefore surprising to learn that she almost found herself following a different career path altogether.
“I want to say it was Art, but it was probably English or History,” she admits when asked about her favourite subject at STS. “Mr. Fink always had a way of teaching things that stood out and helped us learn.” After graduating from STS in 2017, she enrolled in AUArts with the goal of studying design, illustration, and animation. She chose a glass blowing elective as part of her first-year course load, and within two classes she had changed her major. “I fell in love with it,” she explains.
Then came COVID-19.
Faced with the increasing closures of local studios and public galleries, Mackenzie’s options for showcasing her work were quickly dwindling. Through a chance encounter with TikTok, she discovered how fellow artists were using social media to post videos of not only their finished projects but their entire creative process as well. After exploring the various platforms, she decided to begin sharing her content on the live-streaming video service Twitch.
Through Twitch she can detail every step of her process, from concept to completed piece, as well as connect with potential buyers and other artists. Up to 300-400 guests check in regularly, ask questions, and click to purchase her work; more than would be physically possible in many venues, even before COVID-19.
This ability to adapt to a challenge is something she credits to her time at STS. “IB English really set me up for success. It allowed me to critically break down and analyze everything...it also taught me time management. You only have a small margin (when working with glass) in which to work and you need to be decisive.”
In discussing the various challenges she’s encountered in her post-secondary career, she looks to the lessons she learned at STS to help her step outside of her comfort zone and pursue new opportunities. “Two recent 4th-year pieces required me to learn electrical, welding, and woodworking. That ability to critically break down and analyze each step and what needed to be done was essential.”
Mackenzie has also achieved great success as an author. She recently received the Audience Choice Award at the Ghost Stories YYC art show for Do Not Seek the Infinities Below, an audio/visual work. She was immediately invited to attend the society’s next event, which to date has been postponed due to the pandemic.
For Mackenzie, the challenges of this past year are simply another step in an ever-evolving journey. “Keep your doors open, take every opportunity. You never know what will happen. Say yes and see what happens.”