I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few months about what the arts world would look like following this pandemic. Art as business has become much more expansive, and inclusive, since the last time something of this scale occured.
During the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, Broadway theaters remained open. This was during World War I, and the following year striking performers and stage hands would create the Actor’s Equity Union.
Dance, theatre, and performing arts, as well as cinemas, are currently suffering. Each business is trying to adapt.
Museums generally fair better as they are brick and mortar, physical objects. But funding is, and can always be, a challenge.
So there are online performances, virtual walkthroughs, Zoom talkbacks and Q&As, as well as virtual and remote options for engagement, even as the American arts industry stands to lose nearly $7 billion as a result of the coronavirus.
Now, I’m not an early adopter for tech by any stretch of the imagination. I’m still rocking my iPhone 7, have my 25″ Samsung TV I purchased (used) in 2007 at Best Buy (which is now used more as a computer monitor, but still), and was actually gifted both video game consoles I play in the past two Christmases.
But, I believe there’s an opportunity for changing the way we think about the virtual space. It’s happening already. This shutdown has forced us into considering new habits.
But simply putting it online or broadcasting a performance isn’t enough. In that space you’re still competing for viewership, only now you have the whole of the internet to compete with, rather than other local arts groups.