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Alumna: Jessica Cavender

September 6, 2023

Alumna: Jessica Cavender

Headshot of Jessica Cavender

Current Position / Employer: Producer - The Ohio Channel, Digital Media Specialist - OhioDance Virtual Dance Collection®

Degree with Department Affiliation and Graduation Date: MFA in Dance 2016

Thesis Title: Equivogram

1. Tell us what you are doing professionally at the current time (please include specific projects you have worked on):

I have two positions: First, I’m working full-time as a producer for the Ohio Channel, which is a statewide PBS station focused on covering official proceedings of the state legislature, governor, and the Supreme Court of Ohio. There isn’t a typical day, but I am often directing live broadcast coverage of Senate sessions, committees, press conferences, and formal ceremonies like memorials and oaths of office. When I’m not working on live event coverage I’m making historical and cultural films that highlight the significant people, places, and events of Ohio, which is really a joy to do. I’ve been fortunate this year to receive a regional Emmy nomination for one of my films. 

Second, I work part-time as a digital media specialist and am a founding member of the OhioDance Virtual Dance Collection® team. This project’s mission is to comprehensively capture Ohio’s dance history in a media-rich, freely accessible, online archive. Over the past 7 years our small–but mighty–team has traveled thousands of miles across the state capturing hundreds of hours of oral histories, preserving dance photographs and videos, as well as teaching residencies on local historical dance figures and how the historical documentation process works. We’ve also produced a documentary film that received an Emmy nomination, we have a new podcast, and most recently an interactive exhibit with a gesture interface.

2. What inspires your creativity today?

I’m always inspired by research. I love the investigative learning process, I love to be on the hunt myself and I love to read about the discoveries of others. I’m a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction person and get jazzed learning all the wacky ways the world works. 

3. Tell us one “Aha” moment from your experience of studying, researching, or working at ACCAD.

One of the most eye-opening pieces I had the opportunity to see at ACCAD was the Building Empathy in Dementia Care with Virtual Reality Simulation project. It was a transformational experience, not only for myself but for every person I witnessed go through the VR program. People cried, got angry, laughed out of confusion and nervousness, and in the end, understood something completely new about the experience of people suffering from dementia. The integration and application of the 3D environment, story, mocap actor performance, and VR immersion were so on target, it was really a beautiful piece. 

4. What would you say to your “Undergraduate” or “Graduate” self about studying at Ohio State now that you have graduated? Or what advice would you give to current students taking classes at ACCAD?

I would jump up and down shouting, “Trust your ideas!” Making art in an academic environment can be fraught with a thousand hoops to jump through in evaluative processes. For the most part that is necessary and good, but don’t let it desiccate your ideas. I steered myself off track and didn’t make the thesis I should have when I got some unhelpful feedback early in the process. It’s my one grad school regret!

5. How could Ohio State better prepare people for a career that combines art, design, computer science, digital media and new technologies?

ACCAD already creates opportunities for this, so high-fives all around, but few things are more important than letting the public–or as diverse of a group as you can find–test your projects throughout the development process. It is amazing what the outside perspective can reveal to you about how your own ideas are working. Invite people who are not your peers, find children, seniors, and do not miss exploring how your project is experienced by people who have different physical or sensory abilities. If you’re really lucky, someone will even find a creative way to break it! 😛

6. What most helps you to balance life and career expectations? How do you relax or de-stress?

I absolutely have to have my hobbies, which are an ever-changing variety of activities. Being able to make something for no other reason than the joy of it is just about a baseline requirement for my well-being. I took up gardening during the pandemic and found it both exciting and healing. I make a lot of cyanotypes, design and sew things, love kayaking and sand volleyball, and whatever else happens to strike my interest that week. Letting myself have no expectations or judgments of the outcome of a pursuit really revitalizes my creativity and focus. 

7. Tell us a fun thing (or something) most people don’t know about you?

I’m mixed-handed. Typically I write with my left hand but from time to time have found myself busy with my left hand (usually a snack) and unconsciously started writing with my right. Mainly this oddity just makes me bad at sports since I can never decide which hand to throw or catch with, but at least I can use any pair of scissors that happen to be lying around.

8. What would an alternate career choice be, if you could go back and choose a different path?

I believe if I started all over again that I would end up right back here–with no complaints! That said, I often daydream about what a life more connected to nature would be like, and lately I wonder how feasible becoming a dahlia farmer would be…

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