Covid Culture

Back in March of 2020, I remember watching those impromptu concerts on balconies, as musicians played their pots and pans and other home-made instruments in tribute to the frontline workers. I was thinking – well good for them – the frontline workers deserve this. But how is the TSO going to fit on a balcony, especially with a piano, a drum set, and a few oboes up there too?

We now know that the TSO went virtual, and they are about to perform Vivaldi’s Four Seasons online beginning March 26. Other musicians, visual artists, dancers, and writers did likewise. They have learned how to perform on zoom. And we have learned how to participate: comb your hair, check your shirt for stains, put your wine in a coffee cup, and pull up a comfy chair.

The Art Gallery of Ontario now has an impressive line-up of activities and events online. There are courses for adults on painting, and even life drawing if you want to add some spice to your life. Talks by artists and historians include artist profiles, and other topics such as The History Of Nightclubbing in Toronto. You can view some of the AGO collection on their site, and you can do virtual shopping in their store.

The Mirvish Theatre had to suspend their season in March of 2020. There were a lot of disappointed patrons who didn’t get to use their tickets for the blockbuster hit Hamilton. Instead they had to be content with the covid-ized version of the show’s hit song “I’m not throwing away my shot!” The Mirvish staff did get creative and produced a weekly online newsletter titled “Meanwhile.” It had stories of past shows, interviews with actors who had nothing else to do, and little contests such as “What was your favourite theatre moment?” (if you can remember back that far).

Hot Docs, a film company that would normally be planning their annual May festival right now, went online with documentaries and talks. I signed up for a series on architecture, which was fascinating except…the presenter, clearly not used to zooming, had an annoying habit of taking off his glasses and putting them back on again, so often that I started counting. I got so fixated on those glasses that I lost track of the buildings he showed us. Not everything in our covid world is perfect.

Small arts companies have had to be more creative – it’s hard to put together a play or concert or art show with no audience and no money. A friend belongs to a church choir that meets virtually to rehearse. They learned the music long before they figured out the technicalities. A community arts group I know got creative with outdoor event planning, organizing an art show en plein air in the fall and a winter scene photography contest in the colder months. And the kids, even the kids found outdoor venues for their creative talents: on driveways and rocks.

So what does the future hold for all the artists and audiences who have been waiting an entire year for restrictions on live culture to be lifted?There is good news: the TSO is now planning their summer season of in-person concerts beginning in June. Stratford has announced a modified summer schedule, with plays to be performed in open-sided tents. And the highly acclaimed Van Gogh exhibit, which was staged last summer in the Toronto Star building, has announced plans to re-open their drive-through show in the next couple of weeks.

These are such hopeful plans. The arts are coming alive again in the city.


driveway art “Keep smiling!”
rock art – “Purrrfect”

4 thoughts on “Covid Culture

  1. Hey Susan…. I love the cats, very creative. My best concert moment was Phantom of the Opera… I saw it
    three times and with three different guys…he-he


  2. purrrrfect art works. It is amazing how we find a solution by being creative. Each “stone” on our way has forced us to “jump”.


  3. Just like everyone else the arts has found a way to combat Covid. So glad that some of the arts will resume this summer.


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