Illuminated mural highlighting injustice in the prison system

Creatives get creative to stay relevant during a pandemic

The arts are a critical part of our communities in so many ways, bringing color and sound, passion and perspective to the world around us.  And as much as art touches us personally, it also is a shared experience.  

At least it has been.

In the era of COVID, when social distancing protocols mandate that we keep six feet apart, galleries become smaller, theater seats stay empty and the resonance of the arts is buffered behind masks.  

But the arts and culture, in all their resiliency, have endured for centuries.  In that spirit, our local cultural institutions are rebounding in ways that are as creative as the arts themselves.  Here’s a brief look at how five nonprofits have pivoted and adapted to keep their work relevant and accessible during the pandemic.

One of our favorite annual events is Inlight Richmond, hosted by 1708 Gallery, an electric celebration of the plugged-in visual arts that has become one of the cultural scene’s most anticipated installations. Thankfully, this outdoor public exhibition leans into site-specific installations, enabling the event to place en plein air. The theme of this year’s event is safety and accountability, and instead of one or two nights at a singular location, installations were scattered around the city on view over five nights in mid-November. 

Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia

The Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia hosts Freedom Fridays, where folks can gather to celebrate African American culture through music, food and libation. The festivities have shifted to Facebook Live the first Friday of the month, from 7:30-8:30 p.m. While anyone can enjoy the livestream, BHM asks people to make a comparable donation to the ticket price of a live concert event. Proceeds go to the Black History Museum and Trumpeting for the Arts.

City Singers Youth Choirs

Research has shown that singing can be a super-spreader activity, given the oratorial spread of respiratory droplets and aerosols, which we know is not good. But City Singers Youth Choirs has made adjustments that allow the show to go on for its 2020-2021 season. Singers in this year’s season will create a virtual Winter Album Project, with special collaborators helping them out (like No BS! Brass). Through synchronous and asynchronous sessions, students will have even more instruction to create a work of art.

Miracles in Motion

Like the choir, as you can imagine, a dance organization also has to make some shifts to keep everybody safe (we don’t know about you, but our dancing can get us pretty sweaty). Miracles in Motion serves dancers with special needs, making the need for virtual learning even greater. When the pandemic first hit, Miracles in Motion moved all its classes online and had its first virtual recital. The fall season continued to be online, with all eyes focusing on January 2021.

Studio Two Three

This art studio is now closed to the public and open to artists by appointment only. But one reason we love this nonprofit so much is how it has leaned into the social justice movement and its role in the Richmond community. Studio Two Three jumped on the mask-making bandwagon and developed recontextualized historical markers around Richmond. It also has been producing free community prints to help commemorate this time in our history.

Featured photo: Performing Statistics, Freedom Constellations: Dreaming of A World Without Youth Prisons, InLight 2020. Photograph by David Hale, courtesy of 1708 Gallery. 

To support these organizations, consider donating on their websites: 1708 GalleryBlack History Museum & Cultural Center of VirginiaCity Singers Youth ChoirMiracles in Motion and Studio Two Three. Know of an arts organization making adjustments to its offers?  Let us know at thephil@hodgespart.com.  

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