The arts remain virtual as the pandemic continues and stakes rise

Madison Stone

Assistant Arts Editor

It is difficult to say whether the arts have suffered catastrophically or flourished due to the now nearly year-long pandemic brought on by COVID-19. On one hand, the arts importance has been duly noted by those who have missed out on concerts, art exhibits, theater performances, movie premiers and any other chance to get out and see the arts live. On the other, theaters and museums have had to shut their doors, leaving both businesses and artists without steady financial support.

A survey released by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) in the summer of last year gave a glance into the bleak future now being played out. Out of 760 museum directors, the AAM survey found that “one-third (33%) of respondents were not confident that they would be able to survive 16 months without additional financial relief… The vast majority (87%) of museums have only 12 months or less of financial operating reserves remaining.” The impending cutoff date for many of these businesses is fast approaching and yet they still remain dutifully closed.

However, there is hope. Whether the arts have been hindered or not, one thing is certain: they have evolved and they will not go down without a fight.

Virtual art events have become quite popular over the last handful of months. While they have not been able to open their physical doors, many museums and theaters have used streaming to revitalize both business and consumer.

The Met 360 Project, created by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is perhaps the most famous of these virtual experiences. A series of six award-winning videos take the viewer on a tour of both present and past exhibits, including the historic Temple of Dendur and the Arms and Armor galleries. As an added bonus, the service is free.

“Viewed more than 11 million times, this series afford an access and a perspective typically unavailable to the public,” the Met Museum said on its website. “Viewers can experience the magic of standing in an empty gallery after-hours, witnessing a bustling space in time-lapse, or floating high above The Met Cloisters for a bird’s-eye view.”

Other museums have followed suit, including the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, which allows viewers to click through self-guided tours of its rooms and exhibits, and the Louvre, which is hosting its next live interactive tour March 6.

Broadway has also jumped on the opportunity to reach a bigger virtual audience with its content through BroadwayHD. Though the streaming service was founded in 2015, long before the pandemic, it has quickly become one of the only avenues to watch recordings of live performances. At $8.99 a month, BroadwayHD offers access to over 300 full-length productions. Smaller regional theaters have also been able to add their own recordings to the growing list.

In addition to this larger platform, Playbill’s official website has a regularly updated schedule of free livestream broadcasts from both well-known and more obscure platforms.

Even the Metropolitan Opera has gotten in on the streaming gig to remain relevant and progressive. “During this extraordinary and difficult time,” the Met Opera said on its website, “[we hope] to brighten the lives of our audience members even while our stage is dark. Each day, a different encore presentation from the company’s Live in HD series is being made available for free… with each performance available for a period of 23 hours, from 7:30 p.m. EDT until 6:30 p.m. the following day.”

However, even a company as popular and expansive as the Metropolitan Opera has suffered greatly during the pandemic, which they said “has had overwhelming economic implications for the Met and our ability to continue to bring you incomparable performances.” While the company intends to open their doors sometime this year if possible, they lost over $100 million in revenue as of the two seasons they have already had to cancel, according to an article in the New York Times. There is no clear answer to how long the arts will have to remain virtual. However, finding creative ways to go online is what has helped many theaters and museums remain operational, and it has also benefitted both the creators and consumers of artistic media by allowed them an outlet and opportunity to see the arts grow and evolve with th

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