With the recent loosening of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the once-dormant Bloomington arts community is eager to open back up to patrons.
In the spring, IU announced the fall semester would return to mostly in-person classes and mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for all students and faculty. In August, Monroe County unanimously passed an indoor mask mandate in response to the Delta variant and rising COVID-19 cases. These ever-changing rules and restrictions forced the Bloomington arts scene, from musical groups to art galleries, to adapt.
Local Bloomington band Manic Pixie got their start during the summer of 2020, so they were not able to do traditional venue shows. Instead, the band performed virtually or in-person for their families and friends.
Manic Pixie guitarist and IU junior Grace Kryder-Reid said safety is at the forefront of the band’s decisions, but they have been able to play bigger venues as restrictions and protocols have changed. The band opened for Charli XCX at the Welcome Week Block Party, which required that attendees were vaccinated and the band was distanced from the crowd on stage.
While they have opportunities to play at indoor venues, Manic Pixie is opting to keep performing at Open Air Venues on IU’s campus.
“IU has been really great so far about giving performances a space,” Manic Pixie lead singer and IU junior Maggie Zielinksi said.
Like the music scene, art galleries in Bloomington also have to adjust as COVID-19 restrictions change and no longer limit the number of visitors in exhibits.
During the height of the pandemic, Pictura Gallery and other Gallery Walk participants organized virtual events, such as exhibit openings and artist talks on Zoom. Since people started getting vaccinated and COVID-19 cases decreased, the galleries have reopened and events are in-person again.
“The biggest issue is that the public is still hesitant,” Moore said. “At the galleries, like any business, sales are down and attendance is down.”
Pictura Gallery is taking extra steps to ensure its spaces are safe and welcoming. Moore said this includes opening the patio doors, allowing visitors to enjoy food and drink and installing new air filtration systems.
With the uncertainty of the COVID-19 delta variant effects, Moore said she fears more restrictions may be put on art organizations if vaccinations are not adopted faster and people do not follow mask mandates.
Moore fears that because of Zoom fatigue, the exhaustion that comes from events held virtually on platforms like Zoom, community support for artists will diminish if events become virtual again. This will make it challenging for artists to sell their work.
“We are open, we are following the protocols, we are hoping that you will come out and see our new shows,” Moore said. “The bottom-line message: please come out and support these artists.”