North Texas art scene begins to flourish again
In March 2020, the world as we knew it changed in ways unimaginable for the people of Dallas-Fort Worth as a result of the global pandemic. Between stay-at-home orders, temporary and permanent business closures, and ever-changing science, uncertainty has become the norm in almost every aspect of daily life. Arts organizations in the region were particularly vulnerable. Even in the best of times, many have struggled to attract customers to their homes and maintain the funding needed to continue their operations.
But as with countless other businesses and nonprofits around the world, a collective survival instinct kicked in, fueling creativity and harnessing technology to virtually deliver plays, musicals, symphonies, dance performances and museum art collections directly to people instead of the other way around. . Much of the programming was offered for free, while some groups charged a small online broadcast fee, but tens of thousands of viewers also donated to their favorite organizations, often on top of the ticket price.
For some, the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), grants and other sources of funding have helped keep salaries paid. What seemed like the worst of times quickly turned into a manifestation of hope thanks to the power of artistic expression when we all needed it most.
Almost 18 months after the lights went out in the North Texas locations, things are far from normal as virus outbreaks and new variants bring back that old unwanted sense of uncertainty. But the lessons of the past year and a half prove that people crave art more than ever, if not more, so rather than dwell on setbacks and heartaches – of which there were many – there was no has never had a better time to look at the silver liners that have appeared and continue to show up in unexpected ways.
Getting their artistic offerings online was a universal remedy incorporated by many organizations, but it was the most logical alternative to in-person programming for performing arts groups whose shows translated well on. digital media. Theater Three was quick to make the transition, rehearsing and filming Mark Harelik’s “The Immigrant,” with cast in front of a green screen, in May 2020.
“We were the first professional theater in the Metroplex to offer new digital programming,” explains Jeffrey Schmidt, artistic director of Theater Three. “It has been proven to us that whatever the situation, we can produce great theater and reach our customers. Just see it as a creative challenge. And that’s what artists love: finding creative solutions to creative challenges.
Bruce Wood Dance kicked off a series of films that sparked new levels of creativity among everyone involved, giving viewers a more intimate and up-close look at the art of dance. “Thanks to the ingenuity, dedication and hard work of our artistic direction, dancers, board of directors and staff, we jumped on problem solving and thought outside the box,” said said Gayle Halperin, executive director of Bruce Wood Dance. “We are committed to maintaining jobs and serving the public. It was intense. “
Artistic Director Joy Bollinger challenged company dancer Cole Vernon to perform a film version of his solo, “Imagine,” at various locations around Dallas. He captured video of himself playing in empty streets and parks. Halperin says this was the catalyst for several additional film projects, including “Hope,” which featured six acclaimed dance shorts by guest artists (four choreographers and two composers) that both featured themes of COVID-19 and social justice.
The AT&T Performing Arts Center launched a YouTube channel, ATTPAC @ Home, and offered a wide range of content, including bilingual dance and craft classes, storytelling programs, backstage tours and Listen concerts, that showcase emerging local artists. Debbie Storey, President and CEO of AT&T Performing Arts Center, said she saw the opportunity to deliver educational programming virtually and made the content available free to any school district, reaching and engaging thousands of students. .
Performing Arts Fort Worth, Inc., the owner and non-profit operator of Bass Performance Hall, has also broadened its educational reach.
“Our focus on virtual education has allowed us to expand our reach and provide opportunities for students, teachers, schools and individuals. [who] may not have been able to attend an in-person performance before at Bass Hall, ”said Dione Kennedy, President and CEO, adding that the virtual programming has reached over 61,750 students across the Dallas area -Fort Worth in August.
Fans of classical music saw their wishes come true when the Dallas Symphony Orchestra released three full concerts and several performances of smaller ensembles online for free, with extensive options for subscribers and donors. Over 300 chamber concerts were also presented across town via the DSO Concert Truck, a mobile performance vehicle that includes a small stage for musicians from DSO and other organizations. These two contrasting approaches to reaching the community ended up being a kind of win-win.
“We have built a stronger relationship with our musicians and made significant technological improvements,” said Kim Noltemy, President and CEO of Ross Perot, Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Deep Ellum’s Undermain Theater has rotated and has taken advantage of the pandemic to reach out to new audiences while showcasing its vast library of filmed productions from the past 37 years. He created a Vimeo channel called Archives Undermain which allowed even longtime subscribers to access shows they had never seen in person. For its second initiative, Virtual Undermain, the cinema created a whole new content by filming shows with small distributions and limited teams in order to offer films in complete safety.
“Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say, and that was one of them for us. In October 2020, we aired a Conor McPherson one-man show, ‘St. Nicholas, ”which was performed by our Production Artistic Director, Bruce DuBose,” said Danielle Georgiou, Associate Artistic Director. “It caught the attention of Terry Teachout, a Wall Street Journal reviewer, who gave it a fantastic review. We are very grateful to him. “
After the review was posted, audiences across the country began to broadcast the show. The same happened when he reviewed “Hedda Gabler,” resulting in new subscriptions and online donations in addition to the cost of streaming tickets.
Reaching new people in the United States and around the world has been one of the most exciting byproducts of the Dallas arts scene by offering performances online. Bruce Wood Dance estimates that they increased their exposure by 185% and had viewers from Connecticut to California, Canada to Mexico, as well as Europe and Iran – a country where Theater Three has also found new fans. .
Major museums in North Texas have also expanded their reach through various online initiatives. The Dallas Museum of Art recorded 30,000 unique visitors to a dedicated virtual site while the building was closed.
“Just before our closing, we invested in photography which allowed us to launch virtual tours of selected exhibitions and galleries. These tours were hosted on a new secondary website, virtual.dma.org, and we have also created a new e-newsletter dedicated to content that can be enjoyed at home, called Museum Mondays, ”said Dr Agustín Arteaga, Director by Eugene McDermott for the Dallas Museum of Art, adding that the DMA has also created virtual programs that educators can use in schools.
“Plans were already underway to make the changes necessary to bring the museum fully into the 21st century and establish a more sophisticated digital presence,” said Arteaga. “Our closure and the subsequent leap into virtual programming has certainly accelerated these plans and clearly indicated the work that needs to be done to stay relevant and strengthen engagement with our audience beyond our walls.”
Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum, also sees virtual programming as a positive addition.
“We are embracing online and digital content as a way to complement the on-site visit, not replace it. With new features like virtual tours and robust social content, we’re creating even more ways for the public to engage with our collection and special exhibits, ”he said.
Another unexpected result of site closures and other foreclosure measures has been the level of collaboration that has occurred between organizations.
“The AT&T Performing Arts Center was created to serve our community. Completely shutting down and ignoring our mission for a year or more has never been an option for us, ”says Storey of ATTPAC.
As soon as it was safe to do so, ATTPAC reopened its first venue, the outdoor stage in Annette Strauss Square, to a socially distant audience seated on the lawn.
“We did this so that our Dallas arts colleagues had a place to perform while their traditional stages remained closed. We waived the rent and charged only the fixed costs. More than 30 Dallas arts organizations have performed in Strauss Square so far during the pandemic, ”she said. “The collaboration in the artistic community has been unprecedented. “
“It was truly inspiring to collaborate with other leaders in the arts during our closures, to provide and receive advice from each other and to have a support system to navigate all the unknowns. DMA’s Arteaga said. “The arts are essential to make Dallas a vibrant and vibrant city, and we must defend not only our existence but also our prosperity. Arts organizations, regardless of their size, are important and need the support of many sources. “
Through all of these adaptations to their normal routines, a vast majority of arts organizations in Dallas-Fort Worth have found ways to thrive, however relative that term may be. They fulfilled their missions while learning new ways to impact the community, both virtually and in person.
“Our outlook is bright. We are excited about our upcoming exhibitions and the opportunities for new programs that reach new audiences, ”said Kendal Smith Lake, communications director for the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art, noting that community support for the arts has been a positive side effect. .
One glance at the event calendars of these organizations and it’s clear that there is a rainbow on the horizon and it will only get brighter and more vibrant as this particular storm continues. will pass.
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