Elizabeth Rouse, Guest Columnist
Published 7:07 a.m. CT March 25, 2020 | The Commercial Appeal
Elizabeth Rouse is president and CEO of ArtsMemphis, whose mission is to sustain Memphis’ world renowned cultural vitality and strengthen local communities through the arts. Before this crisis confined us to our homes, some may not have yet realized how much they needed the artistic relief of music, movement, performance, or exhibits in their daily lives. Now, I think we all can agree that we crave a source of creative connection now more than ever.
The following represents just the beginning of the ingenuity, creativity and adaptability by Memphis’ arts movement every day, and particularly during these challenging times of social distancing and physical isolation.
Opera Memphis’ 30 Days of Opera, a community-treasured, nationally acclaimed September series of pop-up performances that has been parading around Memphis since 2012, is making a special comeback this April.
Their electrifying voices will bring the gift of opera to all of us through 30 Digital Days of Opera, and we can’t wait to see where their voices lead us. And in case you missed it, Opera Memphis has taken the driver’s seat—literally—to provide riveting performances throughout the streets of Memphis this week via flatbed truck concerts.
New Ballet Ensemble's gift of dance has incubated the world-famous Lil Buck-inspired genre of Jookin and as they expeditiously planned their continued classes for students online, New Ballet is now granting access to anyone in our community to learn Jookin techniques in our own living rooms. In addition, during muralist Nosey’s recent return to Memphis, two last-minute cancellations in his schedule prompted New Ballet to put his talents to work. The finished piece on the exterior of New Ballet’s studio is well worth the drive-by.
The CLTV, who has seeded and hosted black Memphis musicians and artists in its Orange Mound gallery, sought to transition its platform to digital outlets in partnership with New Orleans-based Culturalyst. The platform will launch this week with a weekly live-streamed art series curated by The CLTV beginning this Friday, featuring direct tipping opportunities through Culturalyst’s embedded model that offers direct financial support to artists at the click of a button.
Each year, the Brooks Museum has hosted a highly-anticipated, well-attended ChalkFEST. This year’s event, which falls this weekend, has quickly adapted to offer a virtual version of community creation. Its canvas will expand from the parameters of the museum’s Midtown grounds to the sidewalks and driveways of hundreds of homes across Memphis and all are invited to participate and share their sketches.
I would argue that the dynamic responses of these groups, among the 74 artists and organizations we currently fund, are nothing new. While no one wishes we were in this situation, the artistic response to the environment around us is the daily motivator of Memphis’ passionate performers, musicians, artists and makers—no matter what each day might bring.
This ingenuity and manifestation of their artistic responses is what ArtsMemphis supporters fund every day and will continue to fund tomorrow and in the future.
I believe the cultural renaissance of our city—or any city, for that matter—is reflective of artistic energy. May we continue to bolster that energy through our virtual presence and support, and may we actively spread that spirit in Memphis through our daily creative interactions and habits.