The New World of the Arts

Claudia Polzin
Independent Consultant

Surviving many crises in our country this Summer has not been easy –and as we continue into the Fall with great uncertainty – one thing is certain that the world as we remember it will probably not return as soon as we had
hoped. One area of our world that had the ability to provide peace, escape and solace – the arts – has definitely suffered and it will be difficult for these venues and artists to return to what we previously enjoyed.

As we began to hear of cancellations around the world the pandemic became more real – it not only affected our personal enjoyment, but the livelihood of many of our friends. With many venues cancelled through all of 2020 it becomes more problematic.

Many organizations worked feverishly to bring concerts in a virtual manner – one that has brought joy to many is the Lincoln Center with their Memorial For Us All series – this series was built on the principle that music unlocks thoughts, feelings  and memories that unite and free us. If you are longing to hear some of your favorite artists go to their website and enjoy some time of peace and musical enjoyment. But this also begs the question – is this the face of concerts of the future?

This is the huge issue – singular artists with a few collaborators can do virtual concerts easier than orchestras and choral groups.
The challenges are many for these groups – how do they protect the performers, the audience and the staff that works? It is hard for us to image that an orchestra, a choral group – cannot practice as a group – it is not possible for them to practice with social distancing. Without practice there cannot be a concert or a production. So when will we see a full orchestra on the stage again? Or will it be like the Barcelona Opera House who had a string quartet on stage – social distanced – and played to an audience with all of the seats occupied by live plants.

We add another dimension – we the audience are becoming weary of Zoom meetings and virtual events. A question that is being asked by many in the entertainment world – would the audience be willing to pay, even a nominal fee, for a virtual concert? While the performers want to provide entertainment for their fans, they also need to be able to earn a living with their craft. Can small groups do “driveway” concerts and have individuals purchase tickets?

One might think that when we return to live concerts that the easiest venue would be our own Cambier Park – for the audience  they  will be able to sit in family groups and social distance from others – but what about the performers – they cannot social distance. This is the challenge that is being faced by all performance groups.

As this pandemic started, I was challenged to find ways for my own church to safely open for live worship services. The challenges
that churches face for their live services and their concert services are the same ones being faced by performance venues. One thing
that I learned through all of the studies that have been conducted is that talking spreads many droplets that potentially carry the
virus and worse than just talking is singing. So a service without a choir, congregational singing and responsive reading is not a
service that we are used to – but that is the reality of this virus.

Being a part of an audience that collectively reacts to what they are seeing and hearing is part of the joy of a live performance – but  not being able to sit with your friends and only seeing a small group performing – is that we want? So most likely not only will
the venues have to make major adjustments to what happens on stage but what happens in the audience.

So as we move forward in this new world – we will have to adjust our expectations and enjoy whatever the new normal will bring  us. Please stay well and stay safe and do everything you can do to not only protect yourself but your friends and neighbors.

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