Greater Cincinnati’s arts sector has been proactive in response to the coronavirus crisis. Concerts, plays, festivals, museums and more have been canceled or postponed after health officials announced that social distancing may be a key part of slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Social distancing has had a severe impact on an industry that brings people together. While the coronavirus crisis has caused an immediate challenge and shift in the delivery mechanism for the region’s arts sector, the need for financial support of the sector is more important than ever. Closures and cancellations have created a financial crisis that may top $30 million, if the nonprofit arts sector’s events are canceled throughout most of the summer, given the dependence on events for earned revenue. At the same time, arts organizations are keenly aware of how unique and important their role is as a community unifier. At a time when people are feeling isolated, these organizations have taken this responsibility to heart, using technology as the means to bring us together.
The growth, accessibility and prevalence of internet-driven tools such as video streaming, cloud storage, simple and affordable templated websites and improved cameras with recording capabilities, have enabled arts organizations worldwide to become creative in connecting audiences in new ways.
In the ArtsWave Guide, a comprehensive arts calendar for the Cincinnati region, a frequently updated list of online, streaming and virtual events has been added. In less than a month into the crisis, more than 50 virtual, streaming and online performances, events, and classes had been created by the area’s arts organizations.
Several of these organizations are using Facebook Live to broadcast classes and performances, like the Cincinnati Ballet, Linton Chamber Music, Baker Hunt Art & Cultural Center, Melodic Connections. ArtsWave, partnering with The Well and Cincinnati Opera, offered a lunchtime live Facebook performance of “O mio babbino caro,” performed by Murella Parton and accompanist Matthew Umphreys.
The Parton performance is part of an ongoing music-meditation series, the ArtsWave Edition of Mindful Music Moments, one of the hundreds of projects and organizations funded by donations to ArtsWave. This curated 10-week subscription, which is available to the public, features music by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Opera paired with short, guided daily meditations. The program was kicked off immediately after the pandemic hit the region, with the goal of nurturing the soul through the arts during these uncertain times.
Other organizations are offering anytime, anywhere access to their work. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is offering weekly Sound Discoveries with teaching artist Liz Wu. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is adding to their collection of online storytimes on YouTube. The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati has made both “Casper the Friendly Musical” and “Suffragettes: With Liberty and Voting for All” available to watch online. Several local museums, including Cincinnati Art Museum, the Behringer-Crawford Museum, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati Museum Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Skirball Museum have posted digital tours of their collections and educational resources.
Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park announced that they are commissioning 10 new monologues from local playwrights and actors. “This is our way of supporting local artists and reaching out to you at the same time,” says Blake Robison, artistic director at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Each monologue will be centered on the theme of hope.
Similarly, Know Theatre offered a chance to catch a streamed version of “Alabaster” for a limited time, an event that found great success with audiences tuning in from coast to coast. Now, they have both video and audio productions available, with a goal of offering new streaming content each week until they’re able to reopen. “Theater taps into a fundamental need to share and connect,” says Tammy Winters, Know Theatre’s associate artistic director. “When we realized that COVID-19 was going to make it impossible for us to do that in person, we needed to find new ways to connect.”
In a time like no other, in which isolation is so important, the arts throughout our region continue to connect our community.