A change of art: Creative souls face challenges amid pandemic in Colorado

'It's hard enough being an artist in general'

Ellis Arnold
earnold@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/21/20

Whatever an artist's gig is, it likely was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic's arrival in Colorado.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Username
Password
Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution of $25 or more in Nov. 2018-2019, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access Includes access to all websites


Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

A change of art: Creative souls face challenges amid pandemic in Colorado

'It's hard enough being an artist in general'

A large heart bearing the word “hope” sits on the wall of the building that houses The Englewood Tavern on South Broadway May 20. Artist Koko Bayer has placed the hearts throughout the Denver metro area — including a 12-foot-by-12-foot version of it on the Arvada Center building, according to Collin Parson, the center’s director of galleries and curator. “It’s things like those that give me hope and energy to keep getting art out there,” Parson said.
A large heart bearing the word “hope” sits on the wall of the building that houses The Englewood Tavern on South Broadway May 20. Artist Koko Bayer has placed the hearts throughout the Denver metro area — including a 12-foot-by-12-foot version of it on the Arvada Center building, according to Collin Parson, the center’s director of galleries and curator. “It’s things like those that give me hope and energy to keep getting art out there,” Parson said.
Ellis Arnold
Posted

Maybe they're waiters and waitresses. Maybe they drive for Lyft. Maybe they teach their own art classes.

Whatever an artist's gig is, it likely was turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic's arrival in Colorado.

“It's hard enough being an artist in general,” said Collin Parson, director of galleries and the curator at the Arvada Center, a nonprofit arts hub. He's seen festivals and classes get canceled that often serve as a financial lifeline for people like one of his colleagues, a ceramics instructor at the center.

“A lot of artists piece together to make a life,” said Parson, a 37-year-old Lakewood resident who also works as a professional artist. He added: The fallout from COVID-19 has affected artists' livelihoods “as artists and as people.”

In mid-March, Colorado ordered bars and restaurants to stop dine-in service for 30 days. Theaters — including movie and performance venues and concert halls — also were among the businesses required to shutter. The state soon extended that shutdown, and it was still unclear as of mid-May when theaters could open back up. Bans on gatherings have made event cancellations of all kinds commonplace.

Theater gets help

Amid the economic spiral, relief funds and other assistance for artists have come forward to ease the blow. In the case of Miners Alley Playhouse in downtown Golden, the city government and local organizations stepped up to support the theater, whose landlord provided a month of free rent, said Len Matheo, executive and artistic director at Miners Alley Playhouse.

The “small, mighty theater” prides itself on connecting people through the art of live shows, Matheo said. “People come together to have a theater experience, whether that makes them laugh, cry (or) think.”

Since Miners Alley shut its doors, its normal income streams dried up. Roughly $20,000 in donations since then have helped keep it afloat — its yearly budget is about $730,000 — and it also snagged a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to help pay its handful of staff for two months.

But the roughly 100 actors, designers and other artists Miners Alley hires as contract workers in a typical year are having to navigate a more treacherous economic path.

“These actors are out of work. A lot of theater actors, their other job is in the restaurant business because of the flexibility of the hours,” Matheo said. Contract workers have had challenges accessing unemployment benefits because of conflicts caused by their other sources of income, Matheo added.

Pandemic unemployment assistance has worked out for Emily Tuckman, an artistic director and actor with the Boulder-based Misfits Theater Company.

“Right now, I have very little work,” said Tuckman, who lives in Boulder and whose company performs in Boulder and Denver. “Ordinarily, I tutor SAT and ACT prep, neither of which is happening right now. Additionally, I'm a teaching artist,” but schools are closed. 

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided pandemic unemployment assistance to those not ordinarily eligible for unemployment benefits, including gig workers— such as Lyft drivers — and the self-employed and contract workers, among others whose work was interrupted by COVID-19 in other ways. Tuckman is a self-employed artist.

Identity comes into question

Even with the welcome financial assistance, Tuckman, whose “entire identity stems from being able to act, produce and teach,” has struggled with the identity of being a stay-at-home mom, she said. Others are grappling with “the loneliness of solitude, and the unknown,” Tuckman said.

“It is so hard not to know when we will be safe and when society and the arts will come back,” Tuckman said. “I've gotten this message both from friends, and from fellow Misfits. We are all ready to get back out there and work emotionally and physically, but there's this huge wall in the form of a pandemic, and we all want to keep one another, and ourselves, safe.”

Still, Parson, the Arvada Center curator, wants to project a message of hope. He pointed to the center's call for submissions that any artist in Colorado can enter for free. It aims to portray artists' thoughts on the pandemic and how they are responding to it, Parson said. It's called “Viral Influence,” and submissions will be considered for inclusion in a physical exhibition at the center in 2021.

Crisis spurs change

Some people who are artists but haven't had time for art in the bustle of everyday life may be able to work on art amid society's halt, Parson said.

Parson has seen unfamiliar names responding to the call for submissions — an exciting development for him. Some artists have “exploded with creativity” from reading the news, learning about the virus and simply being outdoors.

“I know a couple artists I've talked to who think this'll be a cultural renaissance, like (with) World War I or World War II,” Parson added.

Tuckman also believes current challenges could strengthen the arts.

“I just think the Denver community is such a special community,” Tuckman said. “I really, truly, believe that we will get through this, and we will be stronger as an artistic community because of it."

Comments

Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.