On Thursday night, the Somerville Arts Council kicked off its “Home Alone Art Series” with “Parallax,” a performance livestreamed on Facebook. Callie Chapman and Catherine Murcek danced while Christopher Konopka provided sounds and video. They described it as “an improvisation that explores multidimensionality of space through the web.”
The online performance is one of the ways the council is transitioning from live arts events to “a virtual event where we’re featuring Somerville artists,” Arts Council Event Manager Iaritza Menjivar tells me. “It’s super simple to submit. We’re asking Somerville artists to show us their talents, to show us what they do.” (Disclosure: In the past, I’ve created events in collaboration with the Somerville Arts Council and other city departments.)
The “Home Alone” series shows how city arts agencies are transforming their live programming to help stem the spread of coronavirus. Cambridge Arts (where I work part-time) is turning its annual June River Festival into a series of online events dubbed the Stream Festival. The Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture is organizing a directory of virtual arts events and programs organized by groups in Greater Boston.
“Home Alone” is “really just a way to support artists right now who depend on freelance work,” Menjivar says. It’s also a way “to communicate and have events for our public because most of our events are cancelled.” Somerville announced on April 4 that “all City-sponsored or permitted public events and large gatherings will be canceled in Somerville through June, including the City’s annual Fourth of July fireworks.”
The “Home Alone” series continues each Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. on Facebook:
April 21: “For Love of Music” with percussionist Greg Jukes
April 21: “Ascend, Ascend” performance by Janaka Stucky
April 28: “Stories with Puppets, Masks & What’s Around Your Home” by Rosalita’s Puppets
April 30: “Original Music from Home” by Chris Freedman
The Somerville Arts Council has also launched the Facebook group “Somerville Creates” to, as the webpage says, “enable artists and cultural producers of all kinds to come together and share creative expression. Call it Art in the Time of Quarantine, if you will. While this is an unchartered and difficult time for all of us, let’s see how we can harness art to create reflection, hope and beauty—and show solidarity.”
“The good things that can happen while we’re stuck at home,” Menjivar says. “They’re both support systems for artists during this uncertain time and an outlet for emotional stress and entertainment—something to see and watch.”
Somerville’s popular and widely influential music festival PorchFest, which began in 2011 by inviting Somerville musicians to play free shows on their porch one Saturday each May, is shifting online. They’ve renamed this year’s edition CouchFest and are asking music folks to “post either prerecorded live videos or plan to do a Facebook Live performance on May 9,” according to the website.
Nibble Kitchen, a restaurant that the Somerville Arts Council opened at Bow Market in Union Square last fall to feature a rotating cast of chefs preparing international cuisine, has been closed since March 14 because of coronavirus. In the meantime, the arts council has launched “Nibble At Home,” a series of videos and posts featuring the Nibble entrepreneurs.
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