Lenora St. Blog

2020 at Cornish: Looking Back on a Year of Firsts, and a Culture of Resilience

2020 is almost over (or maybe it’s already over if you’re reading this and it’s already January). It’s been a rough year worldwide and especially rough for higher education. COVID-19 required schools to pivot to online or hybrid learning, reassess and integrate new health policies and procedures, and mobilize to offer some of the typical experiences via streaming or an online platform.

2020 Cornish Round Up

At Cornish College, we are proud of our accomplishments this year. Our small arts college staff and faculty worked hard to make a lot of exciting firsts for our community. 

Since we were founded in 1914, this isn’t our first pandemic (the American Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919), so this can’t be considered a Cornish first. But this fall semester was the first time Cornish offered a full semester of hybrid learning. On top of all other annual work our staff and faculty do, we added the virtual component (and everything required to make that pivot), and for that, we are proud.

Highlights: Cornish Firsts


  • Scholarship Gala raised $2 million—the most ever raised from the gala. 
  • Cornish Advancement raised over $3.7 million for the first time (in only 13 months).
  • Officially launched the Cornish Alumni website as a shared online community for Cornish alumni to connect. (This included a relaunch of the Alumni Newsletter).

Select Steaming/Virtual Productions and Events:

  • First Streaming Theater Festival Dec. 3-11 (Virtual productions of the plays “You On the Moors Now,” “Stupid F*#&ing Bird,” and “The Theory of Relativity,” as well as a streaming collection of Club Cornish (Fall 2020 Cabaret performances) | Look out for clips of the performances in the new year!
  • First video production of Cornish Dance Theater (CDT) | Stay tuned for photos and recordings of these performances in the new year!
  • First virtual Scores of Sound three-day festival of music. | You can watch/listen to music performances here.
  • First virtual Visiting Artist Lecture Series presented by the Art Department, including virtual studio visits for students to engage one-on-one with the visiting artists.
  • First Collective Response Forum created by the Interior Architecture department to engage with visiting professionals and address current issues including the public health crisis and racial inequity.
  • First Virtual Scholarship Gala 
  • In Spring, near the beginning of COVID, we put on our first virtual Commencement and threw our first virtual After Party.

Not all of our accomplishments were firsts…

…but they still played an important role in supporting the college in this challenging year— including necessary fundraising for the Student Emergency Fund and COVID Relief Grant, new structures for virtual programming, scheduling, and communication that will be beneficial when we revert back to in-person campus life.

screen shots from wearecornish


Some newly launched, in-person projects such as multiple mini-documentary series, event documentation, and community engagement were postponed due to social distancing, but other projects were created in their place.

One example is a special video series of #WeAreCornish, Musical Theater student Winter Mallon interviewed students during the end of the spring semester. Here were some of their responses about hybrid and online learning: 


  • “I’m excited to be back in the swing of things and I honestly felt kind of comforted and like I could thrive in the online setting … it gave me the space and time to really put in the effort and heart that I felt I wanted my work to be.” —Sam Finger, Theater
  • “From all the conversations I’ve had with my teachers, they weirdly are like, you know, this is the real world. We often are in different cities. I’ll be here in the Bay Area, but then you’ll be in Seattle, and we’ll be putting on a show a week from now and we need to be meeting and talking about it. They’re very supportive of it and I think it’s pushed me to grow out of my comfort zone … It is definitely a challenge that I’ve had to overcome during this quarantine.” —Robert Matos, Performance Production

While faculty and staff worked hard to adapt to the challenges of the past year, our students also proved themselves to be resilient and determined in their learning. Though some were unable to return this fall semester due to the pandemic, many made it work through online and hybrid coursework. They found new ways of creating, collaborating, and growing their knowledge and skills. As the art world is often unpredictable, learning to be adaptable and resilient can only bolster our students’ success as artists, citizens, and innovators. 

Thank you to the Cornish Community—the faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors—who made this year at Cornish possible. We look forward to Spring 2021 and wish you all a wonderful holiday break. See you next year!

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