Arts & Culture in the Time of Coronavirus

Arts & Culture in the Time of Coronavirus

Published: April 1, 2020 | Updated: May 1st, 2020 at 6:49 pm

Fermata: Arts & Culture in the Time of Coronavirus

The word fermata means to hold a musical note. Often interpreted as a pause in the music, it serves as an apt analogy for life itself during this time of the novel coronavirus. Our lives are a held note, paused until the music of life continues.

This project, Fermata: Arts and Culture in the Time of Coronavirus, was conceived on March 13, the Friday before spring break. At the time, the public and its governors were only beginning to realize just how devastating the pandemic would become. Broadway had gone dark only two days earlier. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo would not order the shutdown of all essential businesses for another week. For its part, three days before, Syracuse University announced it was shifting classes online but said courses might resume residentially on March 30.

The timing is important because it informs the approach to the project. At the time, the stories in the media were predominately 30,000-foot pieces about the closure of mammoth events, such as SXSW. The coverage had yet to focus on individuals. The idea behind Fermata was to assess the impact on the people who make their living in the arts and culture. But within a few days, assignments shifted from impact to adaptation. How were people coping, adjusting, creating?

Fermata: Arts and Culture in the Time of Coronavirus chronicles our tremulous time. By telling the story of musicians in Nashville, Austin, and New Orleans scrambling to resurrect their suddenly moribund careers, of a Saratoga Springs chef cooking free meals for children, of a Detroit beautician using hair to create art pieces, Fermata chronicles our tremulous time, showcases humanity’s resilience, and affirms that the music of life, not fully silenced even now, will someday return in all its noisy glory.

Musicians perform in New Orleans, Austin, and Nashville perform prior to the pandemic.

The day the music stopped

Published: April 3, 2020

The coronavirus has cost musicians thousands, and their cities millions, of dollars.

Fermata: Independent Bookstores in the United States

B(u)y the book

Published: April 2, 2020

Independent bookstores across the United States are livestreaming author talks and offering signed first editions to engage readers and stay afloat.

Bella V Boutique owners Lorena Nazario and Melissa Convertino closed their shop in Troy on March 16

All dressed up and nowhere to go

Published: April 7, 2020

With all non-essential businesses closed for the foreseeable future, small fashion boutiques in upstate New York are left to attract customers in unique ways.

Saratoga Broadway sign

Dishing out help

Published: April 6, 2020

In the wake of closures, an Upstate New York deli provides free lunches to children in need.

The retail counter at Rocky’s Music Studio.

Striking a virtual chord

Published: April 16, 2020

Music teachers are continuing lessons through video conferencing.

Treme jazz and blues club in Islip, N.Y hosted live music during its Mardi Gras night on March 3.

Stormy weather

Published: April 15, 2020

Jazz enjoys a deep relationship with New York City. The city’s clubs and musicians are improvising during these tough times.

Jim Bugos, the general manager of Packard Music Hall, stands in the empty theater.

An echo in the heartland

Published: April 9, 2020

The hard-hit manufacturing town of Warren, Ohio, is devastated by the loss, even if temporary, of the Packard Music Hall.

A selection of beer samples at Talking Cursive Brewing Co.

Tapping new ideas

Published: April 23, 2020

With sales down the drain, small craft brewers are searching for new ways to pump up their businesses.

Andi Pomato performing.

Sounds of support

Published: April 22, 2020

Sofar Sounds, a company that books musicians into intimate venues, is adapting to a world where isolation has replaced closeness.

Sunrise Inn in Warren, Ohio

Pizza, wings and hope

Published: April 21, 2020

The Sunrise Inn Café, a family-owned restaurant in Warren, Ohio, is fighting to adapt to a take-out-only world.

Jess Novak

Can the show go on?

Published: April 13, 2020

Central New York musicians and venue owners are finding new ways to keep local music alive during social distancing.

Abeille totes photo by Abbey Thurston

Styled for success

Published: April 17, 2020

Abbey Thurston is a local fashion designer and owner of Abeille, a fashion label. Despite the downturn in overall fashion sales, her business is succeeding.

Moody McCarthy, comedian, performing on stage

Healing with humor

Published: April 8, 2020

While the stand-up comedy industry adapts to the pandemic, science shows that humor really is medicinal.

Light installation created by Annie Mitchell

Light in the darkness

Published: March 31, 2020

While Cazenovia's Stone Quarry Hill Art Park adjusts to the pandemic, its light-art artist-in-residence sees hope ahead.

Benson performing

Musical healing

Published: April 24, 2020

Connecticut musician and healthcare worker Bill Benson is hit by coronavirus on both ends

Hairdresser and artist Tiffany Moore posing with some of the paintings she has created

Coiffed art

Published: April 28, 2020

With her metro Detroit shop closed due to the pandemic, Tiffany Moore has transitioned from hairstylist to visual artist, using follicles for inspiration.

art gallery

Still life

Published: April 27, 2020

Q&A with Hena Kapadia, founder and director of Tarq – an art gallery in Mumbai, India, during the times of Covid-19

Iris Records store

On the record

Published: April 20, 2020

Owner Stephen Gritzan of Iris Records in Jersey City, New Jersey, talks about how he’s responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A laptop, coffee mug, notepad and smartphone sitting on a desk.

So, you work from home. Now what?

Published: April 7, 2020

Writer Marion Winik and artist Sandye Renz share tips for working from home.

About this project

Professor Jim Shahin conceived and oversaw this special project, enjoining the students in his Critical Writing class in the Magazine, News, and Digital (MND) department at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Professor Jon Glass was instrumental in producing the package. His Digital News & Innovation class handled graphic development and website production. Victoria Mescall and Patrick Henkels, producers for The NewsHouse, handled daily story coordination. Professor Seth Gitner provided significant support with digital design and CMS development. Harriet Brown’s Magazine & News Editing course helped with copy editing. MNO graduate student Stephanie Macrinos designed the logo and helped with graphic design. MND department chair Melissa Chessher supported the project throughout, contributing encouragement and ideas. Special thanks to the students in Critical Writing, who brought remarkable energy and ideas to the project.