ELAN’s Executive Director, Guy Rodgers and Membership Coordinator, Emily Enhorning speaking at the 2019 ELAN x St Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival schmoozer.
Photo by Amy Macdonald.
It is to be expected – after a prolonged period of disruption and uncertainty – that we are feeling apprehensive about the future, and impatient for strong leadership to get us out of this mess. We are into the third month of shutdown. Artists working in music, theatre and dance still have no clear idea when they will be able to perform again at indoor venues under circumstances that are both safe (for performers and audiences) and economically viable. Surveys show that even staunch fans will not be rushing to sit in theatres as soon as they reopen.
A lot of activity has shifted online in interesting and creative ways. Musicians have been quick to embrace the digital shift. Home consumption of films & TV programs was already a huge business pre-pandemic. New opportunities are waiting to be discovered in the digital realm, but artists working in theatre and dance are resistant to embracing it as the new business model. Visual arts can easily be presented online, but it is not the same as experiencing the physicality of a work of art or an installation. Novels can be sold and read digitally, but nothing replaces the tactile relationship with a book. The digital shift is, at best, a partial solution that attracts a large paying audience for blockbuster products. The environment is not so hospitable to the lesser known with smaller voices.
We need to remember that art is first and foremost about community. It is a meeting of minds, a dialogue, a voyage of discovery, a communion, and an exhilarating celebration of creativity. Community can be simulated in the solitude of our separate homes, but only approximately. While we wait for clear answers about when and how we can resume our public artistic activities, let us remember two things. The world needs artists, always has and always will. Our community is remarkably resilient and resourceful. Together, we will figure this out.