The College of Arts and Sciences is redefining the town/gown relationship with the City of Anderson
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit downtown Anderson, Bobby Rettew stepped in to help local businesses.
“There was this really big sense of panic downtown, not only from the business owners and the business leaders that run and maintain everything, but from a city standpoint. Nobody knew what to do,” said Rettew, owner of Rettew Creative and a professor in the Anderson University College of Arts and Sciences.
The sense of panic resulted in a new project for Rettew: Storefront Stories.
It came from a question Rettew asked his team. “What if we just went around and started doing videos for people for free?” The Rettew Creative team reached out to a handful of local businesses and was blown away by the response.
“We had so many people signing up...we would do like five [videos] a day. It wasn’t like work, it was fun,” Rettew said. “It was almost therapeutic for [business owners]...it was a place they could share their story and make a plea to the public that ‘we are here and we are going to be strong in this together.’”
"Professor Rettew really helped us out as far as breaking it down into manageable tasks that could be easily conquered so that we could then slowly but surely climb the mountain and put it all together."
— Spencer Snow
Class of 2023, Anderson University
After receiving an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the community in 2020, Rettew decided to invite his Corporate Video Production students into the Storefront Stories project. Between the two class sections, communication students shot a total of 10 videos for local businesses, which were then used to produce two live productions. Rettew selected this project for this class because he wanted his students to understand “what it meant to tell a business story.”
Rettew was inspired to create the live productions after a student commented that he wished he knew how to use the new equipment in the Chiquola studio in downtown Anderson. Rettew said the new production equipment was a “wonderful gift” that he wanted students to be able to use. In the middle of the semester, Rettew told his classes,“Let’s create a live show. Let’s use this content you’ve created and bring this into a show.”
The emphasis for the live show was not only on gaining the technical skills to use the equipment, but on the soft skills needed to successfully interview and interact with businesses.
“It was fun to be able to build relationships with people in the Anderson community,” said Rylee Brtek, a 2021 Anderson University graduate. “It wasn’t just for the video; we actually did form relationships with these businesses and got to learn a lot from them as well.”
"It was fun to be able to build relationships with people in the Anderson community. It wasn’t just for the video; we actually did form relationships with these businesses and got to learn a lot from them as well."
— Rylee Brtek
2021 Anderson University graduate
The two live shows were completely student-filmed, directed, and produced. “Bobby gave us the opportunity to take this on as a professional project, which was super cool,” said Abigail Dunson, a senior communication digital media major. The students had a few weeks to write scripts, choose a show theme, plan lighting and shots, and rehearse the shows. Each student had a specific role to ensure the shows went smoothly.
For some students, like junior Spencer Snow, the project was initially daunting. “Professor Rettew really helped us out as far as breaking it down into manageable tasks that could be easily conquered so that we could then slowly but surely climb the mountain and put it all together,” Snow said. Greyson Schleimer, a senior communication digital media major, emphasized how important communication was during the production process. “When you work as a class, you have to learn how to communicate effectively. If you don’t communicate, then things go wrong,” she said.
The students featured some of the businesses they had made videos for in the final live productions. Dunson, who operated as one of the show hosts, mentioned how fun it was for her to interview the owners of The Fashion Shack. “I really enjoyed it. I love talking to people, I love getting to know people, and the two people I worked with were so easy to interview...you could tell that they had a lot of love for one another and a lot of love for their business and really believed in it. It was not hard at all to interview these women—they were incredible.”
Linda Fulmer, co-owner of Ladies on Main, a boutique consignment store in downtown Anderson, was one of the featured interviewees. “I had the opportunity to tell my story...the facility was fantastic...and everybody was very professional,” Fulmer said.
"I really enjoyed it. I love talking to people, I love getting to know people, and the two people I worked with were so easy to interview...you could tell that they had a lot of love for one another and a lot of love for their business and really believed in it. It was not hard at all to interview these women—they were incredible."
— Abigail Dunson
Class of 2022, Anderson University
The success of the two live shows has inspired both the students and Rettew for the future of Anderson University’s communication department and Storefront Stories. “Shopping small and shopping local is a very big push right now...getting these businesses exposure as well as educating students while we do it...is a hand-in-hand collaboration,” said Grace Nicklas, a senior communication digital media major.
All five interviewed students left the class inspired to see communication students do more. Nicklas and Snow both mentioned the possibility of letting students do sports broadcasting for AU sports.
“We have a whole body of students who want experience and a whole field of athletes who would love to have their games recorded,” said Snow, a member of the men’s tennis team. Rettew has big dreams for the future of Storefront Stories. Since starting the project, Rettew has been recognized by TD Bank and partnered with WSPA-TV. “I want to take [Storefront Stories] national,” Rettew said. He hopes to create a curriculum other institutions can use so that their students can go out and help tell businesses’ stories. Rettew plans to continue the model of shooting videos and then producing live shows for his corporate video production classes. He is passionate about giving students the hands-on experience they need to excel in the workforce.
“Students aren’t just students. Students are professionals. Students are practitioners. They come here making a huge investment...for their future. As faculty members...as those that help students matriculate into the next phase of their lives...we don’t talk down to them; we talk with them and build community,” Rettew said.