None of the Above (NOTA), the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s completely student-run art, literature, and music publication entered its 53rd year of existence in 2022. The product of collaboration and creativity from students across disciplines, NOTA showcases self-expression and affirms the value of togetherness by publishing student work biannually. Like other student organizations, NOTA experienced hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid life-altering circumstances, NOTA managed to maintain the organization’s spirit and provided a platform for students to share and unite amidst common struggles.
Current NOTA Editor in Chief Elise Eystad started with the organization as a contributor in 2019. Eystad found NOTA through an English Department presentation at the beginning of her first semester at UWEC. She remembers the lively open reads at The Cabin and still feels the excitement of seeing two of her poems published by NOTA. Even to her, however, those memories are distant, jogged every so often by looking at old event posters in the NOTA office.
Eystad worked as an intern during the Spring semester of 2020, the first semester of the pandemic. “We had just finished up our selection process, thankfully, but now we had no way to print the books because a class at UW-Stout had been making the books and all of their students were also sent home.”
Bethany Mennecke, NOTA’s current Art Director, applied to work as a graphic designer that same semester. Her work began as those cherished memories began fading in the midst of NOTA’s new chapter, “When I joined, everything was virtual: Zoom meetings and open reads, virtual books, no print advertising.”
NOTA experienced waning membership and event attendance after the onset of the pandemic. Still, as the finger snaps and The Cabin’s hued lights were lost, NOTA began to serve a new purpose for student voices.
Facing continued health and safety concerns, racial injustice, and political strife, Mennecke found that many artists' submissions were the result of students trying new hobbies and searching for passions amidst change; others commented on the issues facing our university, the nation, and the world at large. Eystad continues to see “that a lot of students are still writing about the pandemic in a background sort of way--it may not take center stage in a lot of the submissions, but it’s the setting to which their story, art, music, or poetry exists.”
Even after being pulled apart by COVID-19, racial injustice, and political division, students found inspiration and togetherness in None of the Above.
In the Fall of 2021, after almost two years of fully virtual events, NOTA returned to The Cabin. While encouraged by the passion of the students returning to, and discovering NOTA for the first time, Elise has her eyes on the future: “My team and I are just trying to lay a foundation for growth this year, but I’m hopeful that the next couple of years will bring new leaders who are excited at the possibility of expanding NOTA once again.”