To say that the past week has been a rough one would be an understatement of epic proportions.
The Winston-Salem arts community lost one of its grandest old men. The great and gracious Gerald Freedman died in his home at 92. Despite a stroke in 2011, Freedman was funny and fun right up until the end. A great educator and stage director, Freedman is being mourned from the UNC School of the Arts campus to wherever in the world thespians work from their hearts.
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Freedman’s passing had nothing to do with COVID-19, but it compounded my sense of loss.
Performances at UNCSA have been canceled through the end of the semester, May 8, killing off a host of instrumental, opera, dance, film and theater productions. Ticket-holders can get refunds or donate the the cost of their tickets at email@example.com or 336-721-1945.
After more than 20 years of activating the streets and byways in downtown Winston-Salem, and from K-Vegas to Clemmons, bars and restaurants — the most ubiquitous of public gathering places — shut down at 5 p.m. on Tuesday in response to an order from Gov. Roy Cooper, and with no way to know when it will be safe to reopen.
Artists, such as photographers, who rely on commissions and the presence of other people to ply their craft, saw appointments disappear from their calendars and, by extension, expected funds never appear in their checking accounts.
It was heartbreaking to see eagerly and long-awaited performances canceled, such as the Piedmont Opera’s production of “The King and I” that was to have been this weekend, and annual festivals like RiverRun International Film Festival and MerleFest that involve not only dozens of artist but also hundreds of volunteers and seasonal workers.
But artists are a resilient and creative bunch, by definition. Some of them have great ideas for how we cannot just muddle through but nourish ourselves while we hunker down and care for one another.
Art and healing
Jacinta White is a poet, and the editor and publisher of “Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing.” The online quarterly is in its sixth year of publishing poetry, creative nonfiction and photography, all with a healing focus.
Besides a public Facebook page for “Snapdragon,” White created two resources for artists this week: a private Facebook page, called “Snapdragon Journal — Art & Healing in Global Pandemic” where artists can express themselves and inspire one another; and a page on Snapdragon’s website — www.snapdragonjournal.com — that contains tons of resources for artists, such as free online writing workshops and classes, virtual tours of 12 famous museums, and “Emergency Funds — All Art Forms” from Women Arts.
Follow the “More” prompt to “Survival Kit.” White said that she will be updating the page daily in an effort help other artists.
She also had some good advice to help right now.
“We need to embrace the change that we’re now experiencing,” she said. “Creating spaces online — we have to embrace that for the time being.
“This is a time to really hone our self-care practices, so that when it’s time to re-emerge we can do that, because we’ve taken care of ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally.
“When it ends, we want to be ready to engage again up close and personal. This is a time to get some of those things ready.
“We want to be able to continue to cultivate our artists and our communities so that when we are ready to open our doors again we are prepared.
“As artists and arts organizations, we tend to be more reactive. In some ways, we are forced now to be proactive.”
Look good online
Rachael Fern, a professional photographer, saw her appointments for photo shoots dry up last week, but when she heard from friends who had a different kind of problem, inspiration struck.
“Friends who had no experience working from home were suddenly expected to run meetings online,” Fern said. “One person, viewing her video after a conference, asked me, ‘Why do my videos look so bad?’”
Fern said that she couldn’t help people use their teaching platforms. “But I can tell you off the top of my head how to look better. Most of it is simple lighting issues.”
So, Fern got to work on a series of videos to help people look their best and be more confident in online meetings. The first one is on her Facebook page. Search for Rachael Fern Photography, LLC, and scroll down to the before-and-after photos of her. More videos will be on her YouTube channel, and other work is at www.rachaelfern.com.
“I can take what I know about glamour shots and apply it to an online conference room,” Fern said. “It takes about five seconds. You move a lamp, and you look beautiful.”
The process of solving a problem made both Fern and her client feel better.
“The day that I spent planning out the first video was the least anxiety I had in a week,” she said. “I want to help myself and everybody else do what we can to flatten the curve.”
This is what we do. Instead of despairing, we look for creative solutions hiding in the darkness. We might take a few moments — or as long as it takes — to grieve our lost projects or plans.
Then we shake it off and get on with the next thing, whether it’s lighting virtual conference rooms or finding new funding sources.
Let us know how you are creatively facing the COVID-19 crisis, so we can tell our readers in coming columns.