Sometimes deadlines and life events don’t sync. You will find that our April issue of the magazine contains stories for many events that were being canceled as we put the finishing touches on the pages before getting them to the printer. In two weeks that feel more like two months, we have all begun, temporarily, a new way of moving through our days. Social distancing. Sheltering at home. Online classes and home schooling. Remote working.
We at The Laurel, like most businesses, now find ourselves seeking alternatives to business as usual. In May’s issue, expect more stories on how COVID-19, life-changing for all, is impacting the arts and culture of Western North Carolina – our artists, restaurateurs, retail shop owners, actors, musicians; our downtowns, schools, hiking trails and gathering places.
Undaunted, artists, organizations and business owners are finding new ways to engage with the public: online sales, Facetime shopping sessions and auctions; virtual concerts, tours and poetry readings. Facebook groups are forming; websites are being created to help businesses; galleries and museums are offering virtual guided tours of their collections; musicians and actors are finding ways to create together, apart – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Has technology ever seemed such a unifying miracle as it does right now?
Here are just a few of the new experiences available; we’ll explore more of them further in our May issue. The Arts Council of Henderson County (ACofHC.org) has begun hosting weekly Facebook Live Art Auctions and and a virtual open mic session. Check out the Asheville Area Arts Council’s website (AshevilleArts.com) for many experiences including Grail Moviehouse’s Sofa Cinema and The Asheville Symphony Sessions. Staff members at the Center for Craft (CenterforCraft.org) are working on a 3-D tour of their space, exhibitions and more.
And at the Asheville Art Museum (AshevilleArt.org), says communications manager Lindsay Grossman, they are “working hard to provide our members and the community with engaging content they can experience at home for some inspiration and calm during this unprecedented time.” The Flat Rock Playhouse (FlatRockPlayhouse.org) will be using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to feature videos from Vagabonds all over the country sharing songs, dances, poetry and more.
Most organizations suggest subscribing to weekly e-newsletters through their websites and following on social media for the latest updates. This is a good time to form those social connections with the organizations and individuals whose work you value and want to support. At Blue Spiral 1, assistant director and curator Candace Reilly says that staff members are taking advantage of social media to stay connected to patrons. “Our feeds will not only continue to promote the current exhibitions at the gallery (via virtual tours and studio visits with artists), but we will do online studio tours, interviews and demos with many gallery artists during the closure.” Other plans include several online pop-up shows, including a COVID-19 exhibition, and an e-commerce platform on the website (BlueSpiral1.com).
The River Arts District (RAD) website (RiverArtsDistrict.com) suggests visiting individual artists’ websites. Links to many of these websites and social media pages may be found through the membership directory on the site. On their own sites, many artists sell their work online, list galleries where their work is represented and provide contact information. For downtown artists, galleries, cultural centers, theaters and more, visit DowntownAvlArts.com. There you will find detailed information about Downtown Asheville Arts members, including links to individual websites.
We’re also meeting a new batch of heroes among our WNC neighbors as people handy with a sewing machine make masks for healthcare workers, and distillery owners switch their spirits production to the creation of hand sanitizers. We’ll profile some of those people in our May issue.
A reminder also to follow our Facebook page (The Laurel of Asheville), where we make every effort to stay timely with all of the recent changes and try to lift spirits and warm hearts at the same time.
Meanwhile, stay healthy and help others do the same, support our hard-hit businesses all that you can, and please keep in touch. I’m eager to hear about all of the good that is coming out of this difficult time, all of the innovation that is keeping the wheels turning in the business world and all of the togetherness that can arise from social distancing. Email me at email@example.com.