Arts organizations are often among the hardest hit in difficult times. Our current pandemic is no different. Seasons have been canceled. Galleries and performance halls lie empty. Artists and crews find themselves without work.
Still, many nonprofit arts organizations are charging ahead with their missions. They are livestreaming performances, customizing playlists, offering virtual tours of exhibitions and waiving fees for online content. Despite an unprecedented threat to their balance sheets, they continue to work to bring us the cultural salve we need to endure a trying time.
Many of us at Wallace have been turning to such institutions while we distance ourselves from our friends and families. Here, Wallace staffers give a shout-out to some of the nonprofit arts organizations that give us comfort, stimulation and entertainment when we need them most.
I first heard WQXR-FM as I was driving into New York City in 1982. I was moving to the city from Cleveland and a little nervous. WQXR happened to be playing a Mozart piano concerto I had performed as a teenager; a small source of comfort as I toed gingerly into a new chapter of my life. That concerto was back on playlist this week, along with works by Bach, Brahms, Dvorak and Vivaldi, and has been offering comfort in this new and uncertain period. When the headlines become overwhelming, the Must-see Concerts curated on WQXR.org are my respite. Over the years, this public radio station has become a dear friend and, as many of us can agree, we appreciate our friends now more than ever.
Opera Philadelphia is always one of my favorites. I’ve been turning to their large collection of performances and interviews on YouTube when taking breaks from work and parenting. They have Spotify playlists related to past performances, put together by artists that produced them, that are keeping me company while I work. They’re also profiling other companies and artists on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, people and organizations that could really use some support as the world shuts down. It’s a nice reminder that in this period of isolation, we’re all still looking out for each other.
Senior Program Officer, Arts
New York Choral Society
I’m a choral singer, and the communal creation of music is an important part of my life. While I’m cut off from the social joys of music, the New York Choral Society, of which I am a member, is helping to keep me connected. It has been sending email newsletters every weekend in which conductor David Hayes shares relevant clips from past performances and playlists tailored to our times. It’s not quite the real thing, but these newsletters keep me in touch with the music I love and keep me looking forward to the day when we can gather and make music together again.
Grants Administration Manager
Film Forum, and other New York City arthouses
I have a group of friends, mostly filmmakers and writers in New York, that often meets up to go to the movies. Since sheltering in place, we’ve created a Sunday night movie club where we stream a movie and then discuss it over Zoom, as we would over dinner or drinks. Among the sources we’re turning to are New York City’s remaining independent theaters, all of which are in desperate need of support right now. One of our favorites, Film Forum, is running first-run films through Kino Marquee. It’s turned a terrible situation into something of a cineaste’s dream. Half the fun at the end of an hours-long (sometimes contentious) Zoom chat is choosing the film for the following week. While it may lack the magic of being out there with all those wonderful faces in the dark, the ritual of film, conversation and a few beautifully pixelated faces is just what I need before the start of another work-from-home week.
Pacific Northwest Ballet
All this time at home sometimes makes me feel like I might just pop out through the ceiling of my living room. Fortunately, Pacific Northwest Ballet is bringing ballet into my heart and mind and quelling my desire to break free. There are plenty of photographs across social media, ballet exercise videos, and a short film on YouTube documenting PNB’s staging of the popular Balanchine ballets, with some of the original dancers speaking about the choreographic experience.
I want to move these days, and we are in a new (hopefully transitory) moment of stasis. Watching these dancers turn and jump and fill the space with their movement allows me to breathe deeply and feel an expanse, both physically and mentally. All without popping out through anything!
Program Assistant, Arts
Museum of Modern Art
Seeing the exhibition about photographer Dorothea Lange—Dorothea Lange: Word & Pictures—at MOMA had been on my must-do list this spring. Well, MOMA is now closed, but the museum has an online version of the exhibition, complete with audio commentary on 14 of Lange’s photos as well as a pair of photos inspired by her. I’ve been poking into it, and it’s terrific. Many of the photos in the exhibition are from Lange’s work documenting the hardships of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and, during the early 1940s, the impending, unconstitutional internment of Japanese-Americans. They are moving images of human endurance in the face of crisis and suffering.
New Victory Theater
I’m the mother of three creative children. We’re used to a lot of activity, such as art classes at the Montclair Art Museum, talks and performances at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and acting classes at Luna Stage. The New Victory Theater’s Arts Breaks have helped us keep that going, even though we can’t go out these days. They have a lesson or activity for every day that keeps my kids busy, keeps them moving and keeps them creating. It’s been fun!
Senior Program Officer, Education Leadership
The KEXP live stream has been an essential coworker since I sequestered myself. The DJs have peppered the regular playlist with equal parts encouragement (e.g., George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass,”) commiseration (e.g., Portishead’s “Sour Times”) and humor (e.g., The Police's “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,”) all things we can use right now. Their periodic dance-party breaks, which are supposed to help cooped-up kids blow off some steam, are pretty good for adults as well. It’s a wholly appropriate time to dance; it just so happens that nobody’s watching.
Sarosh Z. Syed