The impact of COVID-19 has been felt across every facet of our lives, and the local arts scene is no different. Canceled events and performances, gallery and venue closures, and loss of income opportunities are just a few of the challenges facing the local creative sector. Find ways to help here.
That said, here are a few stories of local artists at work — envisioning new ways of doing business, seeking new connection points with audiences, finding ways to cope and stay positive through art, and generally keeping art alive in the time of COVID-19.
Drive-Thru First Friday, Cottonwood Center for the Arts
If Jon Khoury played football, he would be a two-way player — playing on both offense and defense. It’s an approach the executive director of Cottonwood Center for the Arts and his team have taken during the past few weeks, and there’s no better example than Drive-Thru First Friday.
The event on May 1, which Khoury estimates drew 700-800 people in their cars (plus another hundred on bicycles, due in part to a free ride partnership with PikeRide) served a dual purpose — the community supporting the arts, and the arts supporting the community.
In addition to visual artists from Cottonwood, the event showcased dancers from Ormao Dance Company and music from the Colorado Springs Chorale. All were paid, and, importantly, the artists and performers also felt the spirit of the evening.
“They were all thrilled to be out there,” Khoury says. “There were a lot of smiles and tears, which was cool.”
In addition to taking in creativity, guests could also pick some up for themselves. Tables had free art supplies, including drawing pads, crayons, paintbrushes and more, and almost 70 take-home art packets were purchased by guests. A portion of the proceeds went to the food bank at Westside CARES.
“No challenge will stop people from creating,” Khoury says.
Khoury says two big themes drove the event. First, expanding on virtual arts experiences with an in-person offering to help get people out of the house. And second, though the local creative sector is in great need of assistance, to show that the arts can be a pillar of support for the community and play a large role in maintaining the cultural health of the region.
“This is the time for creative people to step up,” Khoury says. “If we transpose the feeling of need into our community as opposed to your organizations, if we do that, I think we’ll come out ahead.”
Local galleries are beginning to have in-person offerings, in addition to existing virtual experiences. Keep an eye on PeakRadar.com/VirtualFirstFriday as we approach the First Friday in June to see how you can support your favorite local galleries, either in-person or virtually.
A Hand 2 Hold Project, Sophie L. Thunberg
One result of social distancing is a lack of physical touch. Hugs, high-fives, and even hand-holding are now actions we have to think twice about.
For local multimedia artist Sophie L. Thunberg, that sparked an expansion of her A Hand 2 Hold Project. Growing out of memories of holding hands with her French grandmother walking through a market, the project seeks to give people a new way to connect, to virtually extend a hand to others and share wisdom, stories and more.
Adjusting original plans for an in-person performance piece, Thunberg morphed A Hand 2 Hold into an online project that anyone can contribute to, inviting participants to send in a hand portrait or “hand selfie” in any medium, along with a piece of wisdom they’d like to share. Prompts include:
“It’s an important and exciting shift, I love to have different voices and stories, and it’s been inspiring to read and curate them,” Thunberg said. “It’s become less about me and my walks and more about reaching out to each other.”
One additional prompt is to recall the things that have held you. The elderly in particular are isolated, and least likely to have their hands held right now.
“It’s an opportunity to honor those who have supported us and their teachings,” Thunberg says. “We can have some self-reflecting moments of gratitude and appreciation for the knowledge and wisdom that has been passed down to you over the years. You can reflect on what you’ve already been given and create something out of it.”
Additionally, she hopes the project creates connection between the stories of others and our own lives, offering support and comfort.
“We’re not alone in feeling alone sometimes,” Thunberg says. “Many of our stories come from others and the things we value. They remind us of other things that spark joy and bring solace.”
Down the road, Thunberg also hopes to showcase the content in new ways — visually as a “wall of hands,” as a performance piece at the Millibo Art Theatre, or even as video or audio recordings. One goal, regardless of the medium, is to help make the world feel a little less lonely.
Originally written by Jonathan Toman of the Cultural Office and published in the Colorado Springs Independent Abstractions section on May 13, 2020.