As an avid lover of “going out”, and as the executive director of the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra (WSO), I see the benefits of having an active performing arts scene which brings people together as a community. Going to a performance is more than just going to a concert or a play, it is a social experience. You go out for dinner or drinks, perhaps with friends. You meet old friends in the lobby or new people that you are sitting next to, and ultimately, you spend your money in your community. But with everything “dark” for the foreseeable future, even though it is frightening for an arts organization not to open or perform, it is for the good of our community.
Now that we are 20 months post Hurricane Florence, I know that many small businesses and arts organizations were just starting to see “the light at the end of the tunnel” and now we are faced with another challenge. But as a community we are all in this together. I am hopeful that our rescheduled concerts will be performed in the late summer and that we all are able to open back up for our community. But then again, it is hard for all of us to wrap our head around what the future holds. On a bright note, I am constantly reminded by our patrons, donors and the community that they want to support the WSO and the local arts. Because, like every individual and business, arts-related or not, COVID-19 has made a tremendous impact in all our lives. We are all making some really hard decisions to ensure the future of our community.
In the absence of public events, we are all trying to answer the question about how to remain current when we cannot perform. How do we involve our community when everyone is telling us to socially distance?
The internet, of course, has been the answer. Social media posts, email blasts, ZOOM interviews and newsletters already are common, and Wilmington is booming with new content just for the crisis. The WSO is rebroadcasting archived concerts weekly on WHQR and I marvel at the innovation from other arts organizations. The Arts Council of Wilmington & NHC partnered with members of the WSO and Good Shepherd Center on the Wilson Center’s Ghostlight Series, Thalian Hall and WHQR are presenting a virtual Cinematique Sofa Series, UNCW is presenting the “Best Seat in the House”. This list is just a small representation of what is out there in the Cape Fear region.
We are also grateful that larger arts organizations across the country have been able to share their productions, so that there is always something new to watch or listen to from the comfort of our homes.
Challenges aside, we are looking forward to the future but worry about opening too fast. There is always the fear that will surround larger group events and will take time for people to feel comfortable going out. When we all feel like we have done the right thing I am sure there will be music, plays, festivals and joy because our community cannot survive without it.