Recent statewide restrictions on crowds during the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in event cancellations left and right. For working musicians and other performers who rely on gigs for their main source of income, no audiences means no money.
But Creative Alliance is working to ensure that performers and audiences practice safe social distancing while not distancing themselves from great art.
On Thursday, the Highlandtown arts venue announced a schedule of personal concerts, online drag queen storytimes and private kite-flying “festivals” to keep performers and community members engaged amid the pandemic.
Josh Kohn, performance director at Creative Alliance, said the organization wanted to come up with a way to keep Baltimore performers working.
“It felt horrible, honestly, as a performance director to realize that every show I cancelled was one more pin into a performer’s livelihood,” he said.
Starting March 21, Creative Alliance will be launching a new series, “Sidewalk Serenades: Close (But Not Too Close) Personal Concerts,” sending out musicians or other artists to perform outside someone’s home or the home of a friend or loved one.
“It seemed goofy, but also kind of magical,” Kohn said, recalling when Creative Alliance’s team came up with the idea for the mini concert series.
Performers will keep a safe distance from audience members as they deliver 10- to 15-minute shows on stoops, porches and front lawns all around Baltimore, “making sure people still get that sense of close intimacy that you get from a performance, even at a time when it feels like you can’t have that,” Kohn said.
Although the series includes all musicians so far, Kohn said Creative Alliance is looking to recruit other types of performers, such as magicians, puppeteers and burlesque performers.
Folk troubadour Caleb Stine will perform on March 21. The next day will feature performances by Brandon Woody & Allen Bernard Branch and The Homestead Street Band.
All of those performances have already sold out, but people can request Sidewalk Serenades from father-son duo Ken & Brad Kolodner, Gersun Durand of Latinx alt-rock band Bad Hombres, soul singer-songwriter Baby Carrots, ukulele player Katie Long (who has tunes about Patterson Park), and singer-songwriter Letitia VanSant. Available dates and times for those performances are available on Creative Alliance’s website.
Kohn said artists will each set their own performance fee and determine how many times they want to perform throughout the day, although he said the suggested fee range is $60-$80.
Creative Alliance will be collecting a small portion of performance fees to continue their operations, Kohn added.
In the digital realm, some of Baltimore’s favorite drag personas will be hosting storytime readings on Facebook Live at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting March 24.
“Drag is an essential component of who we are at Creative Alliance,” Kohn said. “We have many drag and burlesque performers throughout the year and we recognize that as a viable and necessary community in this city, so we want to make sure that’s supported.”
Storytellers will include drag performers Lula Lioness, Evon Michelle, Betty O’Hellno, Brooklyn Heights and Iyana Deschanel.
With Maryland public schools closed for at least the next week, and private schools following suit, Kohn said the online drag storytimes can provide some family-friendly entertainment for children and families who are already home.
Viewers will be able to donate to the storytellers’ virtual tip jars.
If you’re getting a little stir crazy after being indoors for too long, you can buy a kite from Creative Alliance and visit your local park
Creative Alliance and the Friends of Patterson Park were scheduled to host the second annual BIG Baltimore Kite Fest on March 28, but the event was cancelled after Gov. Larry Hogan implemented restrictions on event sizes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Rather than let this year’s kite packs go to waste, Creative Alliance is selling them for $30 apiece so that people can still fly the kites on their own or in small, spread-out groups.
After all, Kohn said kite-flying is an activity that is practically designed to practice proper social distancing and remain at least six feet apart in public: People can’t stand too close together and get their kite strings tangled.
Each purchase will also pay for two kite kits to be delivered for free to underserved students in Southeast Baltimore. People can either pick up their kite pack purchase from Creative Alliance or have it delivered to their door within two or three days if they are a Baltimore City resident.
While Kohn would have clearly preferred to see the festival go on as planned, he said this alternative is the next best way for people to still enjoy the kites and get some fresh air after staying indoors so much.
“It’s so beautiful outside and it really pains us to realize that we can’t be gathering this way, but we want to make sure people still have the ability to get some mental health time for themselves–to go outside, to fly a kite, to feel the breeze.”