The impact of COVID-19 here in the states has been felt by everyone, no doubt, but there are certain groups that seem to have been hit the hardest: doctors, nurses, the elderly, those of us who are chronically ill, small business owners… and artists.
It is devastating to see how greatly the arts in general have been hurt by this pandemic, but because almost all artists rely on interaction with the public to express themselves, especially if they want to make a living, it’s not all that surprising.
Still, it stings.
I live in a small, very rural county in the middle of nowhere in Indiana. Our county is very conservative, and, in my own experience, conservative people don’t seem to prioritize the arts very much, so that makes it even harder for the handful of artists here to thrive, even in normal times.
During a pandemic? It’s damn near impossible.
Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, a group of artists descended upon downtown Marion, Indiana to bring beauty to its streets in the form of murals. I was shocked but overwhelmingly grateful that such a project was allowed to take place so publicly in our county. Watching it unfold on social media was like a breath of fresh air.
Earlier this year, when I was covering county news as a writer and editor, I did a story on a mural that was put up in the much smaller town of Upland, Indiana. The man who privately owns the building on Main Street hired a local artist and teacher to do the piece, which was created during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests that took place over the summer of 2020 (following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota), when many people were extremely aware of and divided by national racial tensions.
It received horribly disgusting, racist backlash, and after I did the story, I had dozens of people from Upland contact me, saying they were going to complain to the town board (Upland isn’t even big enough to have a mayor), and some even threatening to vandalize the building. One refrain I heard over and over again was that “it looks like graffiti” and “this isn’t Chicago.” (Thankfully, it’s still standing today, unharmed.)
Like I said: it’s hard being an artist in a place like Grant County, Indiana. To say our community has a love/hate relationship with the arts here is an understatement, and I could point to several examples of both love and hate that I’ve witnessed over the years. It’s very hit and miss when it comes to getting the public’s support, even in a good year. But during the time of COVID? Well, I’m afraid the arts have fallen to the very bottom of the list when it comes to Grant County’s (and many communities’) priorities in 2020.
Nevertheless, as artists, we push on.
I am thrilled to know our local theater group, the Marion Civic Theatre, is still pushing ahead with a Christmas show this year, despite all the uncertainty of the moment. Of course, there have been some changes to how the show will be seen this year, especially since our COVID-19 positivity rate continues to skyrocket here in Grant County.
That’s where you come in.
We need to support the arts more than ever right now, and I (perhaps selfishly) am asking for your help in supporting my own local art community.
This year’s Christmas show will be broadcast online, which means people everywhere can tune in, no matter where they are, and take advantage of the rare opportunity to see the Marion Civic Theatre holiday show.
Those interested in seeing the show, and in supporting this great organization, can purchase tickets on the Marion Civic Theatre website, at $7 per person, or $20 for a family. (CLICK HERE for ticket sales.)
The Marion Civic Theatre describes this year’s Christmas presentation as “a virtual variety show,” which features cast members from a previous production of Miracle on 34th Street. The show will take place live on two separate nights: Friday, December 4th at 7:30pm, and Saturday, December 5th at 7:30pm. The theatre’s website notifies you when buying tickets that, in order to view the show online, you will be sent a link before the show begins on whichever night you chose.
In a year where even Broadway has gone dark, how amazing will it be to actually see live theater again, from the comfort of your own home?
Also, in a year where the places we artists flock to are struggling to survive, let alone keep the lights on, especially in small towns in the middle of nowhere, how amazing will it feel to know you’re doing your part to help save the arts?
Over the last year, I’ve done a lot of thinking about how I would have handled this pandemic if it had happened when I was a kid, or even when I was still in college, and it’s hard to let my mind go there. Knowing that the arts have been impacted so directly and so immensely, essentially moved to the lowest spot in the country’s list of priorities (when, for decades now, it’s already been pretty far down there), it’s impossible for me to even fathom how I would have survived such a moment.
In those “normal” times, I barely made it through school as it was, and the only thing that managed to barely keep me afloat was the arts — my music and my writing. And now, so many kids have had their access to and ability to participate in the arts stripped away from them, either because the virus doesn’t allow them to physically enter those spaces right now, or because the funding has dried up. After all, in a world where so many kids don’t have enough to eat every day, how can they expect to indulge in such a luxury? (That’s sarcasm to the nth degree — I believe art is a necessity, never a luxury.)
It fills my heart with joy to see these kids with the Marion Civic Theatre getting to continue doing what they love. I first learned about this year’s Christmas show through a Facebook friend whose daughter is involved in it, and seeing the posts about her involvement at the Theatre makes me smile every single time I come across them.
Kids need the arts. Adults need the arts. Whether people realize it or not, we all need the arts.
When older adults would give me a hard time for getting an arts degree (my B.A.) in college, I would ask them: do you not read books? watch movies? listen to music?
We all need the arts, in some way or another.
And right now, the arts need us — more than ever.
Let’s all do our part to ensure artistic spaces like the Marion Civic Theatre continue to survive, and even thrive, for many more years, and for many more people, both child and adult alike.
Someday, this virus will finally be conquered, and this pandemic will finally come to an end, and I think we all would hope the arts will be there on the other side of all this, waiting for us to come back, forever its loyal patrons. However, in order to get to that other side, we need to survive the current moment, and for some of us, the only thing that might be keeping us afloat is the arts.
If we act now, we can be certain that the arts will still be there for us to support tomorrow.
And we don’t even have to wait for the lights on Broadway to return.
We don’t even have to leave our houses.
Support the arts today.
Make a difference in your community, as well as in struggling communities around the country, and, while you’re at it, enjoy a little entertainment, and a little light, in the middle of these dark, dark times.
From personal experience, I promise you: sometimes that’s all you need to keep your head above the choppy, unpredictable waters.