The Walker County Arts Alliance has postponed this week’s Dinner Theater and cancelled Art in the Park because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” was originally scheduled to be performed Thursday evening at the Jasper Civic Center. WCAA President Tana Collins-Allred said “the show will go on” as soon as it is safe.
“During this time, we are finding creative ways to continue to rehearse via video conference. Eddie Brown, the director, and the cast, Nicole Poe, Patrick Bolack, and Henry Allred, are all dedicated to the performance of ‘Murder at the Howard Johnson’s.’ As soon as we are able to set a new date, we will make that announcement,” Collins-Allred said.
WCAA’s popular Art in the Park, which had been planned for May 9, will not be rescheduled. Refunds are being issued to vendors who had already registered. Vendors can also choose to have their registration fee applied to the next Art in the Park.
WCAA coordinator Kate Gurganus said vendors have been understanding. The summer heat would be a barrier to rescheduling for summer, and many participants have other shows they have already committed to in the fall.
“We thought it would help our vendors to cancel and be able to issue them a refund in these uncertain economic times,” Gurganus said.
The schedule changes will have financial implications both for WCAA and local artists. Both Collins-Allred and Gurganus asked local residents to continue supporting artists during this time.
“I know that so many of the spring events that artists regularly participate in and rely upon for financial support have been cancelled. I would encourage patrons of the arts to seek out local artists on social media and their websites and purchase their art. If any local artists are not on social media, now is the time to learn to utilize this as a tool to promote and sell your artwork,” Collins-Allred said.
Gurganus encouraged fans of Art in the Park to find their favorite artists on Facebook or Instagram. Contact information is also available by calling the WCAA office at 205-221-1711.
WCAA is also sharing opportunities and activities for artists on its Facebook page. Recent examples include university art classes available online for free and a call for health-themed art that comes with the possibility of a $1,000 award.
“I know that I am very interested to see some of the art that is created during this unprecedented period in our history. Artists capture the zeitgeist of a time. There will be some amazing art generated and inspired by this pandemic. I believe that will be one of the silver linings of this collective experience,” Collins-Allred said.
Gurganus gave several examples of things artists can be doing to help their business in the absence of spring festivals:
• Create or maintain a strong online presence through Instagram and Facebook accounts (separate from their personal accounts) which highlight the artist on a personal level, their work and creative process. Posting on a regular basis is important. Posting videos of your process or tutorial lessons is very popular.
• Reach out to established clients through email and phone calls
• Research and create a commerce website (if one does not already exist).
• Photograph and inventory work.
• Study other artists and art marketing on YouTube or on podcasts.
• Most importantly, practice and improve your craft.
“We need great art now more than ever,” Gurganus said.
Gurganus added that the Alabama State Council of the Arts has several resources listed on their web page for artists experiencing difficulties during this time, including a webinar discussing the CARES Act and how it relates to the arts. They also are conducting a survey to understand the full impact on the arts community.
The CARES Act also includes several incentives to boost charitable giving during the pandemic.
“The Walker County Arts Alliance appreciates our community's longtime and generous commitment to supporting the arts and all of our programs. With the loss of some of our opportunities for fundraising, it is important now more than ever for our members to renew their memberships and make a contribution, if they are able,” Gurganus said.