Desperate times call for digital measures

How local art venues are addressing the COVID-19 Pandemic

Desperate+times+call+for+digital+measures

Art museum photo: Nadya Ellerhorst/Chatterbox. Cincinnati Museum Center courtesy of: Brent Moore/Flickr. Playhouse in the Park courtesy of: Tony Arrasmith/Wikimedia. Music Hall courtesy of: Wholtone/Wikimedia. Masks courtesy of: pngimage. Collage by: Delaney Owens/Chatterbox.

UPDATE April 16: On Wednesday April 15, the Cincinnati Opera announced the cancellation of its 2020 100th anniversary season. The company has asked its patrons to donate the value of pre-purchased tickets back to opera, and has expressed that it is “committed to providing a level of compensation to all of the nearly 400 professionals who appear onstage and work backstage to make the season happen.” Through the Artists Relief Matching Gift Fund, all ticket donations will be matched.

The opera’s Ball of the Century, originally scheduled for June 18, the season’s opening night, has been rescheduled to June 19, 2021. The 2021 season will additionally include the world premieres of Fierce and Castor and Patience, which were initially scheduled for this year’s season.

The organization has deemed the season’s cancellation “only an intermission.” It plans to go forward with its Apartment Arias series, and will continue to update its Opera at Home page, which is home to such content as the Inside Opera! podcast and Zoom backgrounds of photos from various performances.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an international lockdown, and Cincinnati’s local art venues have not been spared. As places where hundreds often gather in collective admiration of a variety of media, many Queen City museums, theaters and the like have been forced to close their doors to the public.

However, these same places have been concocting innovative ways for the community to continue to experience beautiful art amid ugly times.

Every museum in the Cincinnati area, from the Harriet Beecher Stowe House to the American Sign Museum, is closed for the foreseeable future. However, many are taking measures to keep their audiences engaged and entertained from home.

Much of the Cincinnati Art Museum’s collection is already available for view on its website. In response to the pandemic, the museum continues to release special content on its social media, including craft tutorials for children and #AskCAM videos of museum personnel answering people’s questions about its artworks.

The Cincinnati Art Museum has additionally released codes that allow for its materpiecess to be integrated into the popular Nintendo Switch game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

The Cincinnati Art Museum has additionally released codes that allow for its materpiecess to be integrated into the popular Nintendo Switch game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The 12 codes, available on the museum’s website, let players insert some of its most famous works into the game, including Pablo Picasso’s “Abstraction (Head)” and its notable Vincent Van Gogh painting, “Undergrowth with Two Figures.”

Additionally, in observance of Van Gogh’s March 30 birthday, the museum is conducting a “Gogh Make Some Art” contest, asking for recreations of the masterwork using any artistic medium. Entries will be submitted through Facebook, and the entry to receive the most likes by 11:50 p.m. on April 12 will receive a family membership to the museum.

Alongside a YouTube audio tour of its collection, the Taft Museum of Art is conducting consistent weekly virtual programming. For example, each Monday, the museum will partner with Urban Sketchers Cincinnati for “Virtual Studios,” in which participants can create art based on a provided prompt and share their outcomes on social media. Every Sunday, the museum releases “Family Funday” craft videos on its social media pages.

Similarly, Contemporary Arts Center continues to release video tours and photos of its current exhibitions, and “Museum in a Minute” instructions for crafts ranging from light drawings to woven portraits. The CAC’s Education staff additionally prepared 500 activity-filled bags with prompts from local artist, Pam Kravetz, and CAC artist-in-residence, Julia Lipovsky. The bags were made available at various CPS Distribution Hubs during the week of March 23.

Cincinnati’s museums are not only providing citizens with helpful means of passing the time during the current stay-at-home order; they’re providing much-needed supplies to Cincinnati hospitals.

Cincinnati’s museums are not only providing citizens with helpful means of passing the time during the current stay-at-home order; they’re providing much-needed supplies to Cincinnati hospitals.”

The Cincinnati Museum Center recently donated masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, and gloves to Children’s Hospital, the University of Cincinnati Health Center, and TriHealth, and the Cincinnati Art Museum donated gloves and masks to Mercy Health. Although these materials are usually utilized in the conservation of important pieces of history, they’ll now be going to preserve the health and safety of patients and doctors in a historical pandemic.

Broadly speaking, a variety of Cincinnati museums have content available through Google Arts and Culture. The Cincinnati Art Museum and Cincinnati Museum Center can be explored digitally through museum view. While the museum views of these institutions are a few years older, they still offer an avenue of escape for Cincinnatians who miss being able to explore public spaces.

Online exhibits and pieces from the collections of both of these museums, as well as from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, are also available on the platform.

Local performance companies are taking similar steps to remotely lift peoples’ spirits.

The Cincinnati Opera’s 100th Anniversary Season, scheduled to begin on June 18, has yet to be postponed. In the meantime, the company plans “to share uplifting, opera-related content on a regular basis” on its social media pages. One such initiative is “Apartment Arias,” in which performers starring in the upcoming season will share “musical moments close to their hearts,” according to the opera’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Playhouse in the Park has canceled the remainder of its 2019-2020 season. However, two of the productions originally scheduled for the current season, Murder on the Orient Express and Becoming Dr. Ruth, have been moved to the 2020-2021 season. A recording of its production of Destiny of Desire is available for rent through Vimeo, and a list of at-home theatrical activities is available on its website.

The Playhouse continues to post behind-the-scenes content from its past performances on its Facebook page, and has commissioned 10 area playwrights to write “Monologues of Hope,” performances of which will be available on the company’s Facebook and Instagram.  

The Cincinnati Ballet has combined and rescheduled its final performances of this season, Director’s Cut and Bold Moves, into Bold Moves Plus, which will be presented at the Aronoff Center in July. It will continue to livestream ballet classes and post segments of previous rehearsals and performances on its social media.

Cincinnati’s motto, Juncta Juvant, or “Strength in Unity,” is taking on a new relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, on the other hand, has not been able to reschedule its spring events. All Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops, and May Festival concerts have been cancelled through May 31, although the Orchestra is attempting to reschedule its April 14 Pops concert featuring Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers. However, Louis on 125: The Luminaries, an exploration of the Orchestra’s 125-history and impact presented by CSO Music Director Louis Langree, will be streamed through Facebook Live on April 30.

In the meantime, CSO’s “Let the Music Play” webpage features audio broadcasts and videos from previous concerts, and musical education materials for school age children.

Cincinnati’s motto, Juncta Juvant, or “Strength in Unity,” is taking on a new relevance during the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is impossible to determine how long the city’s beloved fine arts hubs will remain shuttered, art enthusiasts can still unite in their appreciation for the power of beauty through the many digital avenues being created by some of Cincinnati’s most cherished organizations.