Art centers want summer, not bummer

First year during pandemic proved 'catastrophic'

Jessica Gibbs
jgibbs@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/14/21

As the summer season approaches, community art centers are preparing to use their “pent-up creative energy” to make the launch of summer programming as engaging as it can be, directors say. And …

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Art centers want summer, not bummer

First year during pandemic proved 'catastrophic'

Posted

As the summer season approaches, community art centers are preparing to use their “pent-up creative energy” to make the launch of summer programming as engaging as it can be, directors say. And they hope summer will mark a brighter chapter after closing a trying year for the arts world amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don't want to be melodramatic or anything, but I'm an arts person so why not. The pandemic has been catastrophic,” said Marcus Turner, spokesman for the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. “The arts industries have been hit incredibly hard by this time in our lives.”

The powers of the arts are gathering people together for shared experiences, he said. The pandemic “stripped that away from us.”

Michelle Nierling, the heritage, culture and arts manager for the City of Lakewood, said venues in particular suffered as COVID-19 canceled or restricted events.

“It's been tough. It's been really tough,” she said.

Limited gatherings weren't the only setback for arts centers, said Carrie Glassburn, the acting cultural director for Parker Arts, which saw budget cuts and furloughs. Parker Arts furloughed 55 part-time employees at the pandemic's onset, and that remains those employees' status one year later, she said.

Some help recently came in the form of grants from the Colorado Arts Relief Grant program, which awarded $7.5 million to more than 700 individuals, businesses and organizations in February. Recipients included the Lakewood Cultural Center and the Arvada Center.

As they plan for the summer season, some art centers are confident they'll be able to bring back as much normalcy as possible, while others are still weighing which programs to offer.

Alisa Zimmerman, the arts and culture manager for the City of Thornton, said the arts and culture center is ready to roll out its summer concert series beginning in June “rain or shine.”

The city will run its “creative camps” outdoors and hopes to attract people to the city's public art installments, which are “probably our most COVID-proof asset,” she said.

She hopes by June when outdoor concerts get going, people have been able to vaccinate and feel comfortable grabbing a picnic basket and coming to a show.

Nierling said she's proud of how creative her team was in adjusting to the pandemic, and that will carry over into this summer.

“We are planning to offer some iteration of all our popular and kind of traditional programming,” she said. “But they are going to look different.”

Some events will be held outside at Lakewood's amphitheater instead of inside like usual, she said. Gatherings will still be smaller.

Turner said the Arvada Center is typically a bustling place in the summers. Parents drop children off for summer camp. The outdoor amphitheater hosts touring acts from across the country.

This summer, camps will reopen using cohorts to keep children in the same groups. The center will offer other scaled-down activities, like “front porch” concerts, where a smaller space at the center is dedicated to live music, and tables are set up similar to a bistro environment, allowing patrons to enjoy performances from local musicians.

Other activities will be announced soon, Turner said.

“We're planning to have some larger events this summer depending on how health restrictions shake out for us,” he said.

Parker can hold socially distanced performances at a lesser capacity in its indoor theater, and they hope to bring back the summer concert series.

In July the department will hold a singalong to “The Greatest Showman” and will put on a production of “Little Shop of Horrors” in June and July. The play will be held on a smaller scale than the usual musical production hosted each summer.

Glassburn said the pandemic both forced and allowed art centers to explore virtual services this past year, but they are ready to engage more people in-person this summer.

“I think it is crucial at this time. It has been a hard year for many reasons, on many, many levels, and arts and culture, it's good for the soul,” Glassburn said.

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