By Michael Dart
“I kept my promise, now keep your distance.” A play on the lyrics of Evita’s “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” proves there’s a song for every occasion.
During the early weeks of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the arts created a connectedness, that for many had been lost. Singers on balconies in Italy, art in the life of quarantine, big names raising funds for the World Health Organisation. Can you imagine how silent and empty the world would have been without it?
We were reminded of the intrinsic value of the arts as it helped people in confinement and isolation – the songs that we listened to every day, the films we watched and the online galleries we admired. Social distancing and lockdowns created a heightened awareness of our own personal spaces, but provided an opportunity to discover and rediscover great music or great films or online artistic content.
The lights were turned off on the arts community overnight as gigs, festivals, exhibitions, theatre, venues, studios and rehearsal spaces were all closed. The first to go and likely the last to reopen. Every artist, dancer, performer, technician, maker and creator lost work and capacity to earn overnight.
But our artists and supporters are as innovative as ever. Creative Regions worked to help make opportunities happen, going back to their Mission Statement: “Connecting Communities, Delivering Creative Experiences” as a focus on how to connect work with the community.
With their 2020 program in hibernation they focused on what they could do to help make a difference to the lives of colleagues, neighbours and friends. During the lockdown period they produced 30 artists in 30 days, profiling 30 artists online to give people a platform to share their work or services while in isolation. ScareCorona! was a partnership with Greensills Farming Group to engage young families at home in isolation about positive messaging around COVID-19 with families as far north as Mackay participating. Creative Regions also facilitated Soup Studio, engaging 15 artists over winter during the pandemic to build their teaching skills and share their craft.
Paying artists and facilitating opportunity will be vital in the coming months and Creative Regions will be employing artists such as composers, singers, choreographers, visual artists, choir masters, musicians, sculptors, lighting technicians and more to roll out exciting projects in Gin Gin, Bundaberg, Woodgate, Childers as well as the North and South Burnett regions.
Work will continue for Soup Studio with upcoming workshops in 3D origami, polymer clay earrings and charcoal life drawings. A photography competition opens shortly with cash prizes and events and shows will be rolled out for September and October. New social engaged works will also be announced in coming months.
While the lights dimmed on the Playhouse Theatre stage a week from opening night for Mamma Mia things have not stopped for the vibrant community theatre. Significant works for the expected theatre reopening has been completed for the benefit of patrons.
During September the Playhouse will present a series of relaxed performances of four, one-act plays written by theatre members. These performances will be streamed and include a small live audience. The four plays are very different in style and genre and will prove an interesting and entertaining evening. Artistic Director Bex Hutchins is encouraging locals to get a small group together and make their own social evening watching these performances from the comfort of their own living room.
During lockdown the theatre branched out into online play readings. First up was an original work “A Word in Private” by local playwright Jan Sullivan which was an international affair. Bex said, “The initial play reading was a great success with around 20 people in the reading, including some from Darwin, Melbourne, even the UK, and, of course, locals.”
And there are countless other examples of the arts thriving during this time, like local musicians doing gigs on Zoom across the region. Milbi Magic Mosaics by Bargara artist Paul Perry, having installed almost 50 mosaic turtles along the Turtle Trail by community members with more exciting installations to come. And the Bundaberg Regional Council starting a project titled “The Space Between” so residents can chronicle their feelings while the coronavirus pandemic impacts their lives.
Telling stories is one of the most powerful ways to influence, teach, and inspire. It forges connections and conveys the culture, history, and values that unite people. So again we have seen that the arts has been there for us, connected us and nourished our soul.
As we move forward during the pandemic and artists return to venues or continue creating through new mediums it’s important for us to repay the favour… They kept their promise, don’t keep your distance.