Finding New Ways to Connect Audiences and Artists

Arts organizations are all about creativity and innovation. These talents were in high demand and most evident during the pandemic as arts leaders reshaped programming to engage audiences and support artists while much of the country sheltered-in-place. In many cases, the use of technology and digital platforms enabled arts organizations to deliver experiences that captured our imaginations and provided inspiration in times of need. 

Some went virtual. Check out The Making of Three Decembers documenting Opera San Jose’s resourcefulness as it planned for and staged a performance in the midst of COVID. In addition to sharing past productions online, Chicanx theater company Teatro Vision livestreamed weekly conversations with artists. For those in need of an Art-Fix, San Jose Museum of Art offered patrons the opportunity to spend time online with a docent viewing and discussing works of art from current exhibitions.

Others used available space as a canvas. The Institute of Contemporary Art in Silicon Valley presented the Façade Project, transforming the front of their building into a public art program dedicated to exploring the most critical social and political issues of our time. Pow Wow San Jose focused on building community by creating murals along the Guadalupe River Art Walk highlighting the region’s diversity.

Artists made house calls. Oregon Ballet Theatre provided relief from cabin-fever with its Dance Around Your House series that encouraged audience participation. To share American Indian art and culture, the Heard Museum in Phoenix provided weekly content online, including Sundance Film Festival’s Indigenous Short Film Tour, making it accessible to viewers from the comfort of home.

New works were commissioned. Through its Artist Challenge, Alpine Theatre Project in Whitefish, Montana employed local artists to create theatre and music experiences for the community to combat the economic and cultural deficit created by COVID-19. At San Jose Jazz New Works Fest, eleven artists received grants to produce new works which were featured in pay-per-view livestream concerts and projected on a large bank of windows, providing the show free to the public and enlivening downtown street life.

Experiments are underway. After more than a year of empty theaters, closed galleries and dark stages, arts organizations continue to find new ways to connect with audiences. Gloucester Stage Company is taking performances outdoors. In Silicon Valley, Montalvo is presenting kid-friendly Sunset Cinema on their Great Lawn. Reservations for family “pod seating” at Zilker Theatre’s production of "Little Shop of Horrors" are being accepted for this outdoor tradition in Austin.

We are in awe of the arts groups and their leaders whose tremendous creativity and clever use of technology brought artists and audiences together for powerful, entertaining, engaging experiences all while we sheltered in place. Bravo and thank you!

As the world gradually opens up, we look forward to getting back into the community—to theatres, museums and live music. As a long-time supporter of the arts, Applied Materials believes creativity drives new ideas that can transform the way we live. The arts bring diverse people together in shared experiences that transcend boundaries and captivate the imagination. The arts can help us build back better in the post-pandemic era.

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