A broad array of communities and industries will feel the effects of our rapidly shifted way of life, as more and more of us begin to practice social distancing in an attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). One such group is the artistic community.

From independent musicians to larger, more formal organizations, gigs are being cancelled or postponed; this year’s South by Southwest Festival was called off, dealing a major blow to the city of Austin and to the creatives from around the world slated to play. As gigs slide off the calendar, so too do the dollars that would have gone toward creative people’s livelihoods. Singer-songwriter Caleb Caudle wrote in a widely shared article for Rolling Stone, “If my tour goes away, it’s like a farmer losing their crops.”

But in an anxious, isolating time, art and beauty are salves — they will soothe our troubled minds and remind us to stay curious about, not fearful of, each other.

When asked how best to support their work, independent musicians gave the following suggestions:

  • If you had plans to attend a live performance and either it has been cancelled or you have decided not to attend, don’t ask for a refund if you can afford not to. Instead, let the money serve as a donation to the venue and artist.
  • Enjoy a musician’s work? Now is the time to buy their music online. Buy merchandise through their websites, too.
  • Some musicians are arranging virtual concerts – with virtual tip jars. Attend from your home; leave a few bucks.
  • Musicians and performers may offer classes online via web-conferencing services like Zoom or Skype. Use your time at home to learn a new skill. A friend of mine from grade school, Caroline Fourmy, is offering voice lessons remotely. There are undoubtedly more such resources out there for those interested; if you are offering anything analogous, please feel welcome to leave a comment.

A robust website has been set up for freelance artists to share ideas and resources, opportunities, and financial relief options available for all sorts of artists. Some thoughtful person has also started a Facebook page called Social Distancing Streaming Concerts – events that will take place virtually as an alternative to in-person gatherings. There is, also via Facebook, an Artist Relief Tree effort, intended to provide a flat $250 to any artist in need; in the first three days alone, this fundraiser accrued more than $30,000 to disperse among artists.

Many independent artists already maintain pages on Patreon, a platform that allows musicians and other creators to receive monthly revenue by converting fans to subscribers. One local artist, Jeremy Shrader, commented, “While rescheduling shows and events is great, it still means a loss of income, because the rescheduled date is now unavailable to be booked for another show/event.” If you are a fan of a local artist and can afford to provide modest monthly support, check his or her social media pages or website to see if the artist has set up a Patreon page. A few dollars each month can go a long way, gathered together with other fans’ few dollars each month.

A number of upcoming local theater shows are – as of this writing – still happening. But when and if theater groups find it necessary to go on hiatus, we’ll share more information about what people can do to support the theater community. One good idea: Go ahead and buy season tickets for the balance of 2020 and into 2021, if you are financially able.

Orchestral groups in town will likely also feel the effects of social distancing. Memphis Symphony Orchestra has cancelled an upcoming March show, but shows in April and beyond are, as of now, ongoing. Iris Orchestra’s next scheduled show is May 2nd and appears unaffected so far. Both groups offer season tickets into 2021 – again, a great way to show support and prepare to be delighted once we all emerge from this strange time.

If you have any information to add, comments and emails are encouraged. I am sure we have all observed how rapidly this situation evolves, every day and even every hour. The best thing I know to suggest is that we stay as connected as we can, continue to encourage and support one another, and trust that we can get through this time together.

Ballet Memphis

Bartlett Performing Arts & Conference Center

Crosstown Arts

Germantown Community Theatre

Germantown Performing Arts Center

Hattiloo Theatre

Iris Orchestra

Memphis Symphony Orchestra

New Ballet Ensemble

Orpheum Theatre

Playhouse on the Square

Quark Theatre

Theatre Memphis

Theatre Works

Voices of the South

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