How You Can Help:
It’s Your City, Give a Little Bit Back…
The Federal Stimulus is coming your way any day now. Far be it from me to act as if I know where best to spend your money, especially if you are one of the great number of people in our country that finds themselves temporarily unemployed in this crisis. In fact, the request here is not really for you, but it is for those people who have been lucky enough to keep a job in the current depr recession. For you, the stimulus check is simply a windfall, and it was likely meant to be spent by you in order to keep the economy afloat until we can get out of this nightmare.
Instead of dropping it into your savings account, why not spend that stimulus check on the organizations that enrich our community? Do your part in ensuring that Nashville will continue to have some of the very nice things that it enjoyed up until last month, like a world-class Symphony, Opera and Ballet for starters and some smaller, cutting-edge artistic organizations. Here we will go through a few of the organizations that are struggling, what they are doing and how you might support them:
Like most of arts organizations here and throughout the world, the remainder of Nashville Opera’s season is either cancelled or postponed. The much-anticipated performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto has been rescheduled as the finale for next season. They have just recently posted a pair of wonderful children’s operas, Bear Hub/Abrazo de Oso! and Little Red’s Most Unusual Day on their site and youtube. They were also scheduled to reveal next season’s programming on April 11th, but understandably, from pandemics to tornados, things might be behind. Certainly Rigoletto will be part of the season, and given company’s history, some other wonderful productions. Why not subscribe here?
The Ballet has closed down its productions, schools and activities through April 24th. I personally was looking forward to the Modern Masters production, it looked to be wonderful again. Recently, they have placed online “Trees on the Mountain,” a choreographic film set to Rhiannon Giddens’ and Francesco Turrisi’s song, featuring Nashville Ballet’s Company Artists Mollie Sansone, Brett Sjoblom & Owen Thorne. The performance is chillingly beautiful, and resulted from the same collaboration that brought us the Lucy Negro Redux. Give it a watch and then go get a subscription for next season. Here is a teaser, but I think you only need to hear one word: DRACULA!
One of Tennessee’s largest and longest-running non-profit arts organization, the Nashville Symphony continue to buck the national trend by depending on a majority of their income from ticket sales. Typically, this would be a good thing, but when concerts get cancelled, they become vulnerable much more quickly than more grant dependent organizations. Nevertheless, our Symphony is actively working to stay involved with the community offering home educational resources and home performances by their world class musicians. The Director, Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero just hosted an interactive talk on Gustav Mahler’s Tenth Symphony on April 8, and promised to give more in the future. You can subscribe to their exciting 20-21 season here.
Now part of the government stimulus package includes forgivable payroll loans to organizations. However, smaller arts organizations work through hiring their artists through independent contracts. Thus, the need here is even greater. However, this also means that, because these organizations are smaller, you well get a much bigger bang for your buck.
In an email, Intersection’s Director Kelly Corcoran emphasized their community role of “relevance, content and meaning during this time.” This month they had a scheduled premiere of a new guitar concerto by Leo Brouwer to be performed by Carlos Barbosa-Lima as well as other works by Tania Leon and Ileana Perez Valazquez in partnership with the Global Education Center, which sadly is postponed until next season. They had been providing weekly teaching at the Juvenile Detention Center and “while the in-person instruction will likely not return this season, they are working on the creation of some mobile learning kits so the teachers can still be paid for that work and continue to engage with the students at the JDC.”
Corcoran continues: “Generally, we have shifted our focus for the remainder of this season to the sharing of collaborative content and the lifting up of composers. We see this as a time where we can still fulfill our mission of creating excitement around new music. We’re sending out weekly “composer peeks” where we feature a composer (all female composers for now) and share some repertoire and encourage our community to dig deeper into these composers and learn more about them.” For digital updates she suggests that you subscribe to the newsletter and follow them on social – that’s where you will find the weekly “composer peeks” which could last up to 40 weeks! (the most recent “peek” includes links to a bio and two pieces by Nashville composer Cristina Spinei). To subscribe to the newsletter and to donate to help this important organization continue its work visit here (newsletter subscription at the bottom of the page).
Celine Thackston, Director of Chatterbird, informs MCR that they have also had to push concerts to next season, with some performances added to a concert in November 2020 that features a collaboration with Leila Adu on a commission and premiere of a large-scale chamber piece with two vocalists and youth choir. Leila’s November commission is focused on environmental activism and will feature arts & activism workshops to be offered in collaboration with the Oasis Center, Youth Empowerment through Arts & Humanities, and Turnip Green Creative Reuse.
In addition to the loss of ticket sales, Thackston notes that these smaller organizations are also suffering from the “… diversion of potential grant money as funder priorities shift in response to coronavirus” as well as individual donors “…considering the many issues in Nashville that donors are being asked to respond to.” When asked about next season, Thackston was cagey, but enthusiastic, “At this point […] Our next mainstage event is Leila’s concert in November 2020. We have several concerts that we’re planning for the season; we will be touring in support of Hello Gold Mountain; and will have more exciting announcements on the other side of this that we’d love to share when the time is right.” For now she points readers to the trailer for Hello Gold Mountain, but indicates that there will be a new video out in May – the result of a collaborative project with composer Robert Honstein. You can set up a small 5$ monthly donation here…it will feel so much better than another boring cup of coffee (when we are allowed to go to Starbucks again).
Banning Bouldin, Founder and Artistic Director of New Dialect, the contemporary dance collective, is actively working to shift a number of the season’s choreographic residencies online, which will allow for many of the company’s artists to remain engaged for most of the season. Further, they are working for their artists, “We have also been active in our efforts to connect independent contractors with New Dialect to resources available through the CARES Act, the Artist Relief fund, and the SBA. Operating and project-based grant funding from the Tennessee Arts Commission, Metro Arts Commission, and the NEA has helped us provide artists in our collective with additional financial support, as we reimagine the rest of our season’s projects in this new reality.”
While unsure of the future, Bouldin is sure of the collective’s adaptability and innovative strength, remarking that “…collaborative improvisation is the foundation of our artistic practice and spills over into everything we do.” By far the most optimistic statement I’ve heard in the face of uncertainty. Like Chatterbird and Intersection, New Dialect’s rich Social Media presence and content deep website provides a look at what they are up to now, and what to expect in the future. There is also a space to contribute.
Again, I can’t tell you how to spend your stimulus check. I can suggest that these six organizations improve the community around them and enrich our lives through art. They are part of that beautiful network that makes Music City so much more than Broadway and the Country Music Awards. Why not subscribe to a season from the Ballet, Opera, or Orchestra and make a similar donation to one of the smaller groups? I bet you can do it and still have enough left for a fancy dinner when the restaurants reopen. In the meantime, why not a gift card? This way, next season, when we’ve woken from this collective nightmare, you will find yourself more closely connected to our wonderful community—isn’t that connection one of the things we are missing most right now?