5 Ways to Help Coastal Virginia’s Performing Arts Community

Performing Arts Theater

The darkened theaters at the Met and on Broadway represent the ultimate symbols of the pandemic’s devastation of the art world. There are so many things to care about and fight for in 2020, but we’ve all seen the ways that the arts can give us solace, connection and inspiration in these challenging times, and on a local level, it’s imperative that when we emerge from this time of physical distancing, there’s still a local arts community in Hampton Roads that’s waiting for us.

Rob Cross, Perry Artistic Director of the Virginia Arts Festival, says that the hardest part is not knowing whether indoor venues will be able to reopen. “The biggest challenge for us is the uncertainty,” he says. But Cross feels hopeful. “There is a hunger in the community for the arts to return, and as long as we can articulate all the precautions we are taking to patrons, we continue to feel optimistic about the future.”

Here are a few things that you can do to keep the arts alive in your community this season.

  1. See a Virtual or Outdoor Show

Norfolk’s Generic Theater did an innovative virtual Chorus Line over the summer, and dance company Todd Rosenlieb Dance is in the midst of brainstorming how to celebrate its 15th anniversary with outdoor and virtual events to replace the originally scheduled gala performance. The Virginia Opera created “Stayin’ Alive,” an “alternate fall” program with virtual shows, masterclasses, and outdoor opera events, and the American Theatre in Hampton is curating a hybrid performance season that begins in February. Local organizations are figuring out the best and safest ways to bring the arts to your living rooms and city spaces. Check out the websites of your favorite local arts organizations to find out the best venues for warm fall nights of art under the stars.

  1. Subscribe or Become a Member

Donate or become a member of your favorite local arts venue or organization. If a show gets cancelled, donate the ticket price instead of getting a refund. Subscribing or becoming a member of a local arts organization could make all the difference this season. Alli Pereira of the VAF notes that every bit of support matters and helps local arts “bridge the gap,” this year, “whether it’s a gift of five dollars or naming a chair for five hundred.”

  1. Support an Artist Directly

It’s important to remember that many local artists—even the professionals—are freelancers who juggle multiple jobs, many of which are compromised by the pandemic. If all of these artists decide to listen to their mothers and go back to school to be accountants, the rich local arts scene in Hampton Roads will all but disappear. Supporting these artists directly is an amazing way to keep art in your life and in your community. Local musicians like Skye Zentz are offering online music classes for adults and kids, and professional dancers, singers, and actors are offering classes in everything from piano to tango. Local band leader and accordion player Miles Hoyle has been peddling his musical services—you can hire him to show up at a friend’s door for a private concert. If there’s a class or art form you’ve had a yen to try, consider seeking a local artist for a private virtual class, or attend a free online event and donate. It’s a great way to put money directly into the pockets of performers and keep them making art in your city.

  1. Write to Your Local Government

We’re not saying to stop writing to your local officials about politics and systemic injustice, but consider taking a moment to tell your city and state representatives that the arts matter to you. Arts are often the first thing to get stricken from budgets in times like these, and it helps if your local officials know that you care.

  1. Give the Gift of Art

If supporting the arts feels like a luxury you can’t afford for yourself in this time when many of us are scrambling to pay the rent, consider purchasing a donation or subscription to a favorite local arts venue as a birthday or holiday present for the arts lover in your life. If you were going to spend twenty bucks on Amazon to order a new sweater, think about using that money to send a friend a small donation in their name or a bigger present like a membership. This year, many organizations like the Virginia Symphony Orchestra are offering subscriptions that come with flexible offerings for art that can adapt to whatever the year may bring.

Elizabeth Blachman
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