Here I am, on a recent Saturday at a Hudson Valley gallery, posing in the sculpture garden. It was pretty darn hot, and I was positively aglow with dew. Though somewhat disoriented without a mask, me and a fellow friend attended an opening. So strange to witness a smile without imagining it through squinted eyes. Was it okay to shake hands, too? Or should we just stick to the elbow bump for now?
Earlier, I attended a concert in a small barn, the side doors open to allow a sultry summer breeze to pass through. It was a jazz singer and pianist, making the most of a hybrid concert – both live streamed and in-person. A small clutch of people attended, well-distanced from the the musicians. But to hear live music, in person again? Practically rapturous.
Part of my job is attending gallery openings, live performances, panel discussions, and anything that promotes or supports the arts. Over the past 18 months, there’s been little of that. We did pivot our programming to streaming, but still, it isn’t the same.
Anyone will tell you that attending a live performance of any sort – music, dance, a play – can’t compare to what’s shown on a screen. The performance draws you in, as your glance wanders around the landscape of the stage. One gets caught up with an actor’s plight, or marvels at the whirls and leaps of dancers, or the swell of a musical passage an orchestra plays. With everything silenced over the past eighteen months, it became difficult to believe that the arts could crawl out of the cultural catacombs and come to life once again.
Worse, many of these cultural institutions and nonprofits suffered a great deal. Some closed their doors for good. Others managed to barely cling on. Scores of actors, musicians and artists of all disciplines fought to survive.
After having spent most of my working life in the arts, I couldn’t imagine not continuing. Though I write continuously with the hopes of being published someday, I still have to earn a paycheck. I’m fortunate that I’m able to do so in a career that I love and fought to reenter.
Friday was a busy day. I had to give a hand at a hybrid performance my job presented (both live streamed and in-person performance). Next up, a meeting regarding a cultural site in a nearby city. Then at the end of the day, a panel discussion. I drove all over the map and felt tension rise as the day grew shorter trying to pull all of this off. On Monday there’s a really big meeting about banding several cultural institutions together to apply for a federal grant. Spent the whole weekend working over in my mind how I’d write said grant, too. The rest of the week is humming with in-person meetings and more events to attend and/or plan.
Not that long ago, I was stuck at Phipp’s, never truly imagining I’d have this opportunity to be a part of the local arts scene. And then when I got my chance, the pandemic shut us all down. Sixteen months spent working alone, isolated in my kitchen, trying to keep an arts organization live and relevant. Though happy to be gainfully employed, the stress of trying to keep our doors open while fighting off depression almost shut me down.
But now that vaccinations have been plentiful and more people are receiving them, COVID-19 seems to be shrinking away. Still, we keep that vigilant eye open and a mask handy just in case.
Perhaps those two month working in an office again and the past sixteen months of remote was a dress rehearsal of some sort. Now, that I have to face people once more, I’m finding it to be a pleasure. Admittedly, I was a bit shaky about meeting people face-to-face. But I learned to trust the vaccine, and that helped immensely.
Now, my time seems to be arriving. I’m beginning again, again. Crossing my fingers that I’m going to make it, after all.