Encouraging Creative Expression At A Social Distance

I took a little break from social media this weekend. When I logged in this morning I was surprised to see how many local musicians had streamed concerts over the weekend. I have also been pleased to see libraries streaming staff reading books to kids and museums giving tours and demonstrations.

However, as I am wont to do even in better times, I wanted to encourage organizations not to just push content out for passive viewers. The only thing worse than having people sit quietly in your dark room and watch something is providing the opportunity to do the same thing in a more comfortable dark room at home.

I have been encouraging organizations to provide opportunities to actively participate at face to face events for a couple years now. The same should hold even in times of social distancing. There are still plenty of opportunities to use technology to have people exercise their creativity.

You can do everything from having people send in video of themselves singing a song which you edit into a whole. Likewise for performing parts from a play or poetry reading.

Character limits on social media sites like Twitter lend themselves well for “what happens next…” participatory storytelling where you build on what the previous person wrote while under the discipline of a character limit (can’t make sequential posts!) Obviously can do the same thing with Facebook posts.

Or get really up the game and do sequential visual storytelling with pictures or video on sites like Instagram or TikTok where you can edit other people’s work into your own to simulate interacting with them.

Arts Professional UK has a Creative Communities page which looks like it is being updated with activities every day.

Today it has links to a BBC project soliciting short scripts,

…between 5-10 minutes in length whose 2-4 characters now find themselves in isolation, but connecting via video conferencing. They may be friends, lovers, neighbours, colleagues, family or strangers. But they’re all alone together and using modern technology to stay connected.

And there are face mask art projects:

The Turban Project has published step-by-step instructions for creating and decorating a personalised lightweight face mask for adults and children (see examples). Care Wear has published instructions for making a decorative fabric cover for a protective N95Mask, intended for reuse after laundering if needed during a severe shortage of masks.

While I am at it, here are a couple other projects with participatory content.

Voluntary Arts is curating a daily update of creative ideas – by and for creative workers – to be explored and enjoyed in response to the coronavirus.

Nonsuch Studios are launching Creative Quarantine, a daily email of creative activities for people to do in their own home. Led by a group of artists and creatives who’ve been sent home, they will be sending two different emails with content appropriate to adults and to children and families, which will include extra educational features for children who are off school.

If you know of any US based projects doing something similar, let me know in the comments. Or just tag me on Twitter @buttsintheseats


About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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