The Wiregrass Museum of Art was all set to open a group exhibition in April featuring work by artists from around the world.
Museum Director and Curator Dana-Marie Lemmer thought the exhibit “Path of Entry” and its roster of international artists would show how connected the Wiregrass really is to the outside world. In a way, COVID-19 beat her to the punch.
“I think we’re all in uncharted territory right now, and there’s a lot of uncertainty that makes it difficult to plan,” Lemmer said. “But our artists, in particular, are always so supportive and they’re dealing with these things where they live as well and in their work places. This is just a time where we need to be creative, and we just so happen to be in the business of creativity.”
From exhibitions and school museum tours to a spring theater productions, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on local art groups.
Art educators at the museum have designed daily art breaks that are posted to the museum’s social media platforms. They’ve done everything from cereal box cityscapes and paper plate space puppet shows to art work using Zentangle patterns. Lemmer said the museum is also putting art kits together to go out with school lunches for students in Dothan City Schools who don’t have access to technology. The art kits — one expected to go out in April and another in May — will include a lesson and all the supplies needed.
Lemmer said because the museum had invested in technology and digital platforms, including its Wiregrass Museum of Art app, they were better prepared to offer digital content during the pandemic, which has actually given them the chance to experiment.
“We don’t have in-person tours happening or classes and workshops — those programs that took a lot of time to plan and implement,” Lemmer said. “There’s now time to experiment with some of these new technologies. We’re also exploring virtual tours of the permanent collection and objects on loan.”
Local dance studios have had to get creative in how they offer classes. Both Patti Rutland Jazz and Dothan School of Dance are holding classes via Zoom.
For some groups, the restrictions on public gatherings could have impacts beyond the end to social distancing.
“We don’t have the freedom to sit around and see how long this is going to last,” said Jennifer Love Doherty, the executive director of the Southeast Alabama Community Theatre, or SEACT.
SEACT has postponed auditions for its spring production of “An Inspector Calls,” the final stage show for the 2019-2020 performance season. However, the group’s board of directors has not made a final decision on if the show will go in May as planned or if it will be delayed, Doherty said.
Theatrical productions are planned well in advance and preparations, including rehearsals, begin months prior to actual show dates. Doherty said she’s even reluctant to announce next season’s show dates not to mention the impact on SEACT’s youth summer camps.
Productions and ticket sales are a source of fundraising for a non-profit theater group like SEACT. So if a show can’t go on, it could have an impact on future seasons.
“Something like this will have a ripple effect,” she said.
But considering that many families are getting through the quarantine by engaging in the arts and sharing their experiences on social media, Doherty hopes they will realize the importance of community art groups and show their support when life returns to normal.
“Whatever the new normal is, I hope they’ll be looking for us,” she said.