Arts sector still trying to unite, strengthen

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We at the Arts Council of Wilson feel like we are in the upside down or maybe in a strange in-between space where there is some sense of a half-normalcy, but with some key components that are still very not-normal.

Simply put, it is a strange world for the arts sector right now: dark theaters, empty stages and numerous and endless empty seats.

A major component of our work includes bringing people together using the arts as a medium to unite us and strengthen us as a community. That is still our goal, but we are having to go about that work in a completely different way.

We have to break down all of our programming into its various components and reconstruct it to include certain parameters featuring face coverings, 6 feet of space between people and limiting the touching and sharing of everything. When we do anything we have already done a million times over before the pandemic, it feels as if we are doing it for the first time during the pandemic.

Continuing some programming amidst a pandemic involves some creativity and a lot of exploration of new routes for delivering arts experiences and includes a head-on wrestling match with logistics. Seeing full facial expressions, sharing art supplies, projecting when singing, physical interaction, conversing as a group, hugging and handshaking are typically very important to our work, and the inability to do these things can be seen as barriers to carry out our work.

Our approach has been, ‘What can we create together if we embrace the 3 W’s (Wash your hands, Wait 6 feet apart, and Wear face coverings)?’

So far we’ve created successful visual and performing arts summer camps with new norms, murals, virtual exhibitions, social distanced gallery openings, coloring book downloads, performance portal through the Wil’t’son Limelight Facebook group and an online gift shop to support local artists.

Coming down the pipeline are broadcast performances and a virtual indie film festival with Q&A with the filmmakers themselves!

The harsh reality is that our organization has lost $95,000 to date in expected income as a result of the pandemic, and we are still not at a point in which we are able to resume some of the activities that have been revenue generators for us that support our educational programming and outreach.

We are four months in of not being able to rent the Edna Boykin Cultural Center for live ticketed events or host our own live ticketed events with no end in sight. This has been difficult for our organization, as I know it has for many others.

The PPP loan, not having to operate two facilities since the Wilson Arts Center is under renovation currently, pivoting to embrace new technologies and the generosity of our arts community and supporters have helped us continue to serve during this challenging time in which hearts need the arts the most.

Thank you for your continued support of our organization and for joining us on this journey of creation and innovation during unprecedented times.

For more information on camps or to donate to the organization, visit www.wilsonarts.com.

Cathy Hardison is executive director of the Arts Council of Wilson.