Members of Culver City’s business arts community shared ideas and solutions to the COVID crisis in a meeting of the minds that took place Thursday, May 14, 2020 over Zoom.
The Culver City Arts Foundation hosted the first of many planned “town halls” last week, aimed at bringing together the COVID-19 crisis’ most vulnerable community – the arts.
“What’s most important is that we hear from each other,” said Arts Foundation Chair Kathy Sue Holtorf, who moderated the conversation between business owners and leaders, which included Center Theatre Group’s Associate General Manager Eric Sims and CCUSD Arts Coordinator Heather Moses.
“I’ve accepted that we are going to be in variations of this over the next two years,” Holtorf said. The first wave of stay-at-home orders in March immediately affected arts venues, which were forced to close their doors and find ways to adapt quickly, or risk imminent death. Moving online has been key for theatre groups and their artists. Improv theatre and school, Impro Theatre, for instance, quickly set up live-stream performances, updated frequently and free to watch.
“We have older participants who already have weakened immune systems so we pulled our programs early on,” said Bryan Caldwell, co-founder of CRE Outreach, a non-profit art organization which operates The Blue Door in Culver City. The Blue Door features performers from underserved backgrounds, including the disabled and veterans. He said making sure performers have the right technology has been a priority, and Caldwell calls performers regularly to make sure they have what they need.
“One really powerful lesson of the situation, I read an article about how theatres have never been great for accessibility,” said Sims of CTG. This could turn out to be a great opportunity for theatres to rethink and expand accessibility, he said.
Many discussed opening their theatres for the public again, as shelter-in-place mandates lighten. Options like out-door theatres and spreading show-goers six feet apart among venue seats are possible, but in smaller theatres like The Blue Door, which has 50 seats, the numbers would be too low to justify.
As for the school district, “the reality is, we’re going to be doing some kind of online learning for the Fall semester,” said Moses. The Academy of Visual and Performing Arts at CCHS has placed much of their programming online, including the AVPA Film Department’s annual showcase, which had such good results that they plan to continue the event online going forward. In the past, the student film screenings were hosted at Sony Pictures Entertainment, with a reception as a part of the exclusive event. Having the films online dramatically increased the number of people who could participate. As there is no art form more suited to a screen than a film, it was an example of an easy and successful shift that was a win/win in all directions.
As the ‘heart of screenland’ continues it’s transformation to the ‘heart of streamland,’ it’s going to be important for the arts community to take the crisis by the horns and jump right in.