Local arts organizations talk safety and reopening in the time of COVID-19

Local arts organizations talk safety and reopening in the time of COVID-19

As non-profit arts organizations in Syracuse reopen, SU students can enjoy the local arts scene with restrictions.
Published: September 3, 2020 | Updated: September 7th, 2020 at 2:03 pm
Syracuse Stage has yet to set a date for reopening.
Syracuse Stage is currently closed, with shows scheduled for 2021.

The fall 2020 semester has been anything but normal. Students attend socially distanced classes with masks, cannot attend sporting events and need to report the status of their health and COVID-19 exposure to SU each day. Another thing that has changed for Syracuse students is the access to local nonprofit arts organizations and events.

Some local organizations remain closed with no set date for reopening, while others have socially-distant options for patrons to come and enjoy art. SU students can still take in the modern art at the Everson among other local arts options. Check out this updated list of organizations in the Syracuse area and their statuses with COVID-19:

Syracuse Stage

Located right around the corner from campus on East Genesee street Syracuse Stage is usually home to multiple theater productions each year. The 2020 season was originally scheduled for April 15-May 3 and was postponed twice before being canceled.

This has not been the only change. Kate Laissle, the Associate Director of Education, would usually be in the middle of running the four-week middle school summer camp. Instead, she finds herself running it over zoom. The decision to switch to a virtual class was made at the end of March and, despite that in-person summer camps are now allowed and that other Syracuse organizations have pivoted back to in-person classes, Syracuse Stage has chosen to remain online.

“It was something we decided as an organization because it was easier for us to plan for that, rather than plan for fifty million possibilities,” Laissle said, A silver lining of Zoom summer camp is that this year Syracuse Stage has campers from as far as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, an occurrence that would not be possible in person.

Aside from the occasional Zoom events, including their annual gala, Syracuse Stage remains closed, with no set date for reopening. Some shows initially planned for 2020, such as “Yoga Play” have been rescheduled for 2021.

– Mackenzie Snell

Everson Museum of Art

As of Aug. 2, the Everson Museum of Art is back open to the public, with various restrictions for coronavirus. The Everson, located on Harrison Street in Downtown Syracuse, is a popular destination for modern art.

All visitors, staff members, and volunteers will be required to wear masks for the entire duration of their stay and social distancing will be mandated. Additionally, hand sanitizing stations will be scattered throughout the building and the entire building will be cleaned and disinfected daily. The Museum will be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from Noon-8 p.m. and additional hours will be allocated in the morning for Everson Members and high-risk individuals from 10 a.m.-Noon.

– Emily Ehle

Landmark Theatre

Downtown Syracuse’s historic Landmark Theatre is currently closed for more than just COVID-19 reasons. After 92 years of hosting shows for the Syracuse community, the Landmark is in the process of renovations and updates. The theatre’s executive director, Mike Intaglieta spoke on the changes.

“We’re replacing the marquee. Our old marquee was boxy and really kind of unattractive. It had three panels with fluorescent lights behind them. But the original one was arched and had some decorative carvings,” he said. “With our new marquee we’ll be able to replicate that and bring a little bit of the era with which the Landmark was born back. And then, of course, we’re going to have video screens.”

When renovations are complete, the Landmark will have brand new seating as well. The renovations are set to be done by mid-fall 2020, but the reopening of the theatre is entirely dependent on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Landmark is currently planning to host a Witches Ball in October as it’s first event back in business, with a 2021 season planned featuring Hamilton, the Blue Man Group and Cats.

Sarah Connor

Redhouse

In March of this year, the Redhouse theatre company was hard at work on August Wilson’s Fences when Central New York began shutting down due to COVID-19. The show was cancelled, as was the rest of the season. Staff was sent home, and eventually laid off. And with every new mandate from Albany, the momentum Redhouse had built up was suddenly ground to a halt.

On the education side of things, Redhouse — located on South Salina Street Downtown — has been able to continue to offer summer camps for Syracuse area children, with a hybrid of online and in-house programming. The decision that children would return to the building over the summer was made in late May, when directives from local government were still changing daily.

When asked how the organization came to the conclusion that it would be safe to have children return to in-person classes, director of education Marguerite Mitchell claimed that it came down to intense discussion, and science.

“Our facility is very large, and we actually partnered with a local company that specializes in air purification. So we have amazing air purifiers in every single space that were proven to collect H1N1 out of the air, which is actually a smaller particle than COVID. Based on the science based on the data, we said ‘We think we can pull this off,’” she said.

As of this publication, the summer drama camps have ended, and photos from the company’s Instagram and Twitter pages show children performing in the Redhouse building wearing masks.

As for the season to come, Redhouse is offering a subscription package but no promises that they will return to normal anytime soon.

“We’re kind of going ‘wait and see’ mode” Roadhouse executive director Samara Hannah said. “I’m watching what’s happening with restaurants. And I’m anticipating something similar to that with theater just because we’re a place of congregation.”

– Matthew Nerber

Symphoria

Local co-op orchestra Symphoria has taken a different approach to the pandemic when compared to the other listed organizations.The co-op status essentially means the ensemble is run by its own musicians, with artists partaking in all executive decisions.

While the pandemic forced many orchestras to cancel at least half of their upcoming season Symphoria continued with their 2020-21 plans, a decision that makes them a rarity in American orchestras. Marketing and development associate and flutist Kelly Covert explained that going through with the season meant a necessary overhaul.

“We can’t put that many people on the stage with social distancing and keep everybody safe. So we had to totally go back and revamp the whole season.” she said.

The new 2020-21 season focuses on pieces that call for a smaller orchestra, collaborations with American artists and smaller ensembles. Whether or not virus restrictions impede traveling artists or rehearsals remains to be seen, but Covert sounds hopeful. Even though the season itself changed, the concert dates haven’t.

“We’re committed to having a concert on every single date that we said we’re having a concert,” Covert said.

Because of the current occupation restrictions, all concerts are set for livestream attendance. This presents some difficulty for the organization, as most of their audience consists of an older demographic who might resist the online streaming format. The number of returning subscribers remains uncertain, but Symphoria’s left open the possibility of distanced concert attendance. Once restrictions start loosening there is a possibility, but much like COVID-19, it all remains up in the air.

– Veronica Maldonado

ArtRage Gallery

After a five-month closure, ArtRage: The Norton Putter Gallery in North Syracuse is set to reopen Sept. 3 with a new exhibit, Tim Atseff: The Seven Deadly Sins – A Trump Dystopian Heptology. The gallery will offer the exhibit both in-person and online. For those who opt for the in-person exhibit, masks will be required, capacity will be capped at 25 percent, and social distancing guidelines will be implemented.

“It was supposed to open in April,” Kimberley McCoy, ArtRage’s community engagement organizer said. “The paintings depict the seven deadly sins and each one is a painting of Trump. He has since created several more paintings that he’s been working on since the pandemic. And he is a well-known artist in our community that worked for the Syracuse newspapers for a long time.”

The gallery exclusively exhibits pieces on social justice and environmental themes as a way to celebrate the intersection of activism and art.

“The idea was to start an arts organization that would really be for people in our community for visual art around social justice issues with exhibitions being the key thing,” McCoy said.

As things return to the new normal, McCoy said ArtRage hopes to have staying power in Syracuse’s community and art scene.

“The arts have really been in some ways, you know, thriving at this time because people appreciate what they give to us,” McCoy said. “They make life a little better.”

– Samantha Savery

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