Artists and arts organizations are resilient and resourceful, and nothing is bringing that to light more than these uncertain times.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there are plenty of interesting ways that artists and groups are pivoting to accommodate their programming and performances while practicing physical distancing. The National Arts Centre (NAC) and Facebook Canada, for instance, have joined forces to provide $700,000 in artists fees to support online performances, which are shared via the NAC’s Facebook page. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Convergence Theatre is producing “The Corona Variations,” a series of five-minute plays performed over the phone; as well as “The COVID Commissions,” in which artists (working in any medium) create a piece inspired by voice mails and emails from the public about how the pandemic has impacted their lives.
Here at home, the Lawnya Vawnya music and art festival (which is scheduled to take place from September 30 to October 3 this year) is one group that has had to find new ways of doing things, like making their Artist in Residence program a remote opportunity.
The goal of the program is to provide musicians with unrestricted time and space to research, develop and produce ongoing and/or new material, and also includes a community outreach component like a talk, workshop or performance. This is the third year for the program (the first two artists in residence were Tim Baker (2018) and Maylee Todd (2019)).
This year, two artists will be chosen to participate in the program (each will receive a $1,000 artist fee), which is open to both emerging and established musicians from the province and abroad. Instead of travelling St. John’s, they will work from home and offer their outreach activities online.
“One of the goals of the residency from the start was to invite artists to come and create within the unique cultural landscape of our province and to foster in-person collaborative opportunities between visiting artists and members of our own arts community. Given the circumstances, this wasn’t an option this year. Instead, we saw this program as something that could be adjusted to suit the changing needs of the artists we support,” says Christina Dicks, Executive Director of Lawnya Vawnya.
“Many musicians are currently dealing with having to postpone tours, are not able to play regular gigs and in some cases are being forced to hold off on finishing and releasing new music. Although it’s a small contribution, this program is a way that artists can get paid for some of the work they are doing at home during these uncertain times.”
While rejigging such a program presents some unique challenges, there are benefits as well.
“The remote residency creates opportunity for people within our community, not just those from outside St. John’s. We really encourage locals to apply this year. We have some of the country’s strongest and most innovative musicians right here and we would love to help support them,” Dicks says.
“Offering the residency’s outreach component online also opens up attendance to anyone who is interested. In past years, the performances and workshops have been at capacity and that’s something we won’t have to worry about this year. We are also aiming to include youth who are at home right now and may be looking for extra activities. Our hope is that this program will help bring some relief.”
Dicks says there’s been a bit of a learning curve as things have changed seemingly overnight.
“Navigating online platforms can be tricky right now since there is more content than ever coming at us. It can certainly be overwhelming,” she adds.
But for those arts organizations that may be considering similar remote opportunities, Dicks has some insight to share.
“Our first step was to look at our existing programming to see what we had to put on hold and what we could adjust to work remotely. My advice is to choose something specific to focus on; remember to reach out to other arts organizations, your board of directors and your community for input; try not to put too much pressure on yourselves or your artists; keep things as clear and open ended as possible; and be prepared to adjust plans,” she says.
“This is what has worked for us so far. Ultimately, it’s about finding ways to support artists and arts professionals any way we can right now.”
The deadline to apply for the Lawnya Vawnya Artist in Residence program is Friday, April 17. Click here for more information.