Let’s talk a little about silver linings.
It’s a sad fact that the COVID-19 pandemic literally cancelled culture in many cases. Music concerts never happened, art museums closed, author’s tours vanished from the calendar and the deep shadow spreading across the country even blotted out Broadway.
All the buildings remained undamaged, of course, just sucked dry of people. Some entities that had once been seen as cultural institutions slowly slipped under the water, the hopeful “Temporarily closed” signs on their doors eventually replaced with simply “Closed.”
Depressing news, to be sure. So how could anyone find a silver lining in this black hole?
Well, for one thing, there is that old saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Turns out it really does — the best way to get people to appreciate something is to tell them they can no longer have it. I’m sure that the frustrated desire to enjoy concerts, gaze at paintings and take in plays has been building for over a year, like water rising behind a dam. That dam is going to burst when we finally return to normal, and a lot of pent-up frustration and renewed appreciation will come pouring out to help fuel a rebirth.
Whenever a calamity strikes, those affected typically panic at first, then retreat into depression. After that, though, they often start looking around for alternative ways to stay alive. With the pandemic, that was where technology came in.
Sure, it’s usually better to experience our culture (note: I’m employing a broad definition of that word here, everything from hip hop to opera to horror movies) firsthand. But that has its drawbacks, as well. How often have we discovered that the date of a particular event just happens to coincide with some other obligation that trumps it?
Now, though, that event can be recorded on film or audio and put it out on the on-line menu to be enjoyed any time, by anybody. And if there is a price tag attached to that, who could blame them?
This has especially hopeful implications for the popular music industry, which was already being reinvented. A couple of decades ago, concerts were designed to introduce music fans to a particular group or artist so they would then buy their records. With the advent of streaming, however, music as a commodity escaped its previous containment and spread everywhere, often for free. Hence the flip — the music has become the enticement for fans to attend concerts, now priced many times what they were just a few years ago.
As someone who has witnessed dozens of music shows, I can attest that they are often overrated. If you have a seat in the first dozen rows, there’s nothing like it. If you’re up in the balcony, the musicians look like performing ants and the song lyrics can be unintelligible. Done right, a film version of a concert is actually more real, and the revenue from a pay-for-view setup will help the musicians and venues move beyond COVID.
Colleges and universities provide a steady stream of interesting speakers on a wide variety of topics. The problem is, it has always been a one-shot proposition. They can’t very well bring the same presenter back over and over, so a lot of people who might have been interested miss out because the lecture time didn’t work for them. Or maybe they live in another state or another country. Now, that has changed.
Similarly, art museums can now offer a close look at a new exhibit via the Internet. Meanwhile, on another cultural front, the “virtual book tour” has become a reality for many authors.
The idea is not that these on-line adjuncts will replace the real thing. Rather, it will all be stirred together in a form that allows consumers more options and the purveyors of music, art and literature new and badly needed income streams.
A TASTE OF CULTURAL NEWS
As promised, here are a few news items and features I came across over the past month or so. You can find a lot more of these on the Facebook page and Website for We Who Create ( www.wewhocreate.com).
This guy is big in the art world.
The world’s largest canvas painting has sold at a Dubai auction for almost 228 million dirham ($62 million), putting it among the most expensive artworks ever to go under the hammer.
Measuring over 17,000 square feet, “The Journey of Humanity” is roughly equivalent in size to four NBA-regulation basketball courts.
The work was created by British painter Sacha Jafri in order to raise money for children affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Having cut the work into 70 parts, Jafri had initially intended to sell the panels separately in the hope of making a combined $30 million. But at a charity auction on Monday, Dubai-based businessman Andre Abdoune offered more than double that to buy them all.
The healing power of poetry.
Think of this as an Amber Alert for paintings.
Start spreading the news …
How about artwork designed to repel sharks?
Brandi Carlile talks.
One approach to the musical shutdown.
Remember Douglas Adams?
A tribute to lost birds.
Bonnaro for you, too.
Do they have virtual cheerleaders?
Freelancing is never free. Maybe the government can help.
Darrell Laurant is a veteran journalist who previously worked at the News & Advance (Lynchburg). He published over 7,000 pieces in three decades. Darrell has covered papal visits, the Olympics, American sports, and political issues in Virginia. He has also written a variety of books, including "Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks that Helped Change America."