With the pandemic finally easing and summer arriving, outdoor performances and events are on the rise. Across the Cincinnati region, arts organizations prepare to welcome audiences back, keeping safety as a top priority. Warm weather, careful planning and new partnerships pave the way forward.

The 300+ acre Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park has created new opportunities for collaborations, which Interim Director Lee Sanders aims to continue and expand with upcoming events. “Fitton on the Hill,” curated by the Fitton Center for Creative Arts, includes performances by Just Strange Brothers, Madcap Puppets and the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra this summer. In July, ArtsWave donors will get steps in and engage with the park’s art and nature at “Step up to Sculptures,” part of the Arts4Wellness series. Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra will perform in the park for their Summermusik series in August.

Sanders sees more partnerships and innovative uses of the space in the works. She explains that there were no objections to such collaborations before, but COVID made them essential. Now, many performing arts organizations have a new outlet for their talents, while Pyramid Hill welcomes new audiences as they visit for the first time. “If the pandemic opens our eyes to opportunities like this, something good will have come out of this,” Sanders says.

Cincinnati Opera will pivot to the outdoors for their 2021 season, marking a return to their roots. For more than 50 years from their founding in 1920, the second-oldest opera company in the United States performed at the Cincinnati Zoo Pavilion. The summer of 2021 marks the first time since 1972 that they will hold their entire season outdoors.

The organization faces new challenges with the season’s format, even after ensuring safe physical distancing. They need contingency plans for poor weather, a stage with sufficient lighting, a way to protect instruments for Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra musicians and more. Cincinnati Opera staff and leadership gained valuable insight through regular calls with other opera companies throughout the country. Together, they developed best practices for reopening plans. Katie Syroney, director of Communications at Cincinnati Opera, describes a universal “dogged determination to make it work despite the pandemic, and not to let the quality suffer.” Audiences will see the results at Summit Park in when they take in  “Carmen,” “Tosca” and “The Barber of Seville” this summer.

Other regions embrace the trend toward outdoor performances as well. In New York City, the Lincoln Center kickstarts the arts with their outdoor series, “Restart Stages.” The world’s largest performing arts festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, will likely rely on outdoor performances, based on Scotland’s gathering restrictions. The country will allow socially distanced audiences of up to 400 people for indoor shows and 2,000 for outdoor seated performances by the end of June.

The Cincinnati region’s own Fringe Festival kicks off the 2021 summer arts season with a hybrid of virtual and outdoor, in-person performances after going all virtual in 2020. As the season continues, Clifton Cultural Arts Center brings Wednesdays in the Woods back to Burnet Woods from June to August. It’s Commonly Jazz presents the 36th season of their annual festival, with main stage events every Thursday in August at Seasongood Pavillion in Eden Park. Additional “Final Friday Jazz” performances in Findlay Market aim to celebrate a return to human connection, bringing the total performances for the festival to 14 — with some possible pop-ups in store.

Through it all, music, theater and other performances find a home in the Cincinnati region’s parks. Enjoy the Arts @ Parks, presented by Macy’s and curated by ArtsWave, offers a chance to experience great outdoor spaces while highlighting the diverse array of local arts.

For a list of upcoming outdoor events in the Cincinnati region, visit ArtsWave Guide’s Outdoor category.