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Local arts organizations cope by moving online amid virus closures


The Comedy Attic is located at 123 S. Walnut St. in Bloomington. Many businesses have had to cancel or postpone events due to COVID-19. IDS file photo

A few weeks ago, Bloomington arts organizations were prepared to put on plays, organize music festivals and teach children about international music. Today, those plays are being replaced with live readings, the festivals with Instagram account takeovers and the lessons with the children have been canceled.

Arts organizations are using a variety of methods to cope with the coronavirus, including postponements, to-go products, new ways to fundraise and online outreach.

The Lotus Education and Arts Foundation canceled its Lotus Blossoms Educational Outreach Program due to COVID-19. The program teaches K-12 students in south-central Indiana about different world cultures through music performances and workshops.

Now, the foundation uses social media platforms to post about local organizations helping out during the pandemic and to share international music.

To make up for the cancellation, one of the planned artists for the Lotus Blossoms events, a family mariachi band called Cielito Lindo, will do an Instagram takeover of their account in mid-April, Communications and Marketing Director Kathleen Clark-Perez said. She said another planned artist, Finnish band Kardemimmit, might do an Instagram takeover April 5.

“We’re trying to respond and join the online community in a positive way,” Clark-Perez said, “but we’re also trying to stay really authentic to our Lotus mission.”

Clark-Perez said Lotus is not alone in this struggle. 

Artisan Alley’s three Bloomington locations—an art lounge and co-work space; a tool shop;a location with a classroom; gallery and another co-work space — are closed until April 4 due to the pandemic, according to the Artisan Alley Facebook page

To adjust and give children and adults at -home activities to do, the organization is selling to-go art kits, according to its Facebook page. The kits are for making wooden signs and other DIY projects listed on the organization’s board calendar.

The Comedy Attic is closed indefinitely according to its Facebook page and postponed some of the scheduled routines, including Mick Foley, Moshe Kasher, Mike Birbiglia and Cristela Alonzo.

To come up with funds to sustain its business, the organization created a link for an open mic event. The video is 100 minutes long, and it costs $5 to view. The link is emailed to the buyer.

Opening night for the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s production of “The Absentee” was postponed to May 1, managing director Brad Schiesser said.

The organization also canceled its final production of the season, “The Burdens,” but it will try to do a staged reading instead, Schiesser said.

The office is closed, and the staff is working from home.The organization is using savings to pay staff for as long as possible, he said.

“They’re the lifeblood of what we’re doing,” Schiesser said of the staff.

Schiesser said he thinks it is important to keep the organization active because it supports original theater works.

“There’ll still be places that’ll do ‘Oklahoma!’” Schiesser said. “There’ll still be people that will do these classic plays, but we’re a theater that only does new plays to try to continue to cultivate new work.”

Nonprofit organization B'Town Jazz faces difficulties in fundraising opportunities president John Porter said. 

To pay for musicians to appear in its annual Jazz Festival, B'Town Jazz needs to fundraise, which is more difficult now because of the virus.  Porter said B'Town Jazz has paused fundraisers out of respect for other businesses.

“The hardest part is dealing with musicians who are in a gig-related industry who partly rely on our programming throughout the year,” Porter said.

Porter said organizations may face marketing issues in the future.

“Even when stay-at-home orders are lifted hopefully within the next several weeks, I still think there’s going to be an uncertain period where people are considering, ‘Do I really feel safe in public going to a live music performance?’” Porter said.

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