As every year ends, it is common to take time to reflect on the ebbs and flows of the past 12 months. It is less common to reflect and find so many months marked by a global pandemic and endless hours spent in unprecedented times. As a community we have been through so much this year. We’ve witnessed great loss, incredible perseverance, and yes, the power of the arts in our community to bring us together - even when we have spent so much time apart.
Through it all, we at The Columbusite made a commitment to continue our work to do everything we could to support local arts and culture. This is because despite all the roadblocks, arts and culture did not cease to exist or matter. Here’s a look at what our team has witnessed and produced this year.
It’s our hope that by taking a moment to look at the big picture, you’ll join us in a shared feeling of resiliency and hope. Together this year we navigated the impossible. And if this year has taught us anything at all, it’s that we’re certain our community will continue to move forward together as we tackle the days ahead.
PERSEVERANCE IN AND FOR THE ARTS
It has been a year of perseverance for the arts especially. Our team has been amazed by how our local artists and theatres bent but never broke. We mourned live performances, but were amazed by the resilience and creativity of our local theatres and musicians.
“Everything has changed, and yet, our collective need for the arts continues to grow,” wrote our founder Carrie Beth Wallace in her first pandemic article, Light for Dark Houses.
In spite of incredible adversity, perseverance has been an enduring theme of our arts community throughout the year. The Springer Theatre ran its first ever series of video classes. The River Center teamed up with the Shubert Organization to offer livestream shows of top Broadway talent. A graduate conducting student at the Schwob School of Music and one of the top classical guitarists in the world, Ying Xu, found a way to collaborate and for musicians to perform safely with the Heritage Concert Series.
We also loved seeing how other colleagues in arts education persevered through the challenges that COVID brought their way. The Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus hosted a free live holiday concert, and our friends at Voices of the Valley Children’s Chorus performed a live concert in a parking garage that was live-streamed on Facebook for their audience.
The show went on. The show goes on.
When March turned to Summer, amid a pandemic we released our seasonal magazine The Current. It was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done. Typically, the editorial process is a joy for our team, but this time? The inability to gather was debilitating. A cover shoot the way we typically achieve it was impossible. The social and political landscape changed by the hour. And yet, we persisted, because we believed with everything we had that our audience needed to read this issue at the time - just as much as we needed the chance to create it.
“Clarity about the present and future still lingers within the veil of uncertainty that is COVID-19, but the creative drive of artists in our community is clearer than ever. It is within us, and it is bringing us closer than ever before,” wrote Carrie Beth Wallace in her Editor's Note.
Our pandemic issue will forever serve as a time capsule of this season of life in our community. In Blake Blackmon’s feature, A Change is Gonna Come, musician and Columbus native Trey Privott of Los Coast reflected on the positive in the slow down of quarantine as a time to get ideas out and really focus on the work.
“Right now I think that it's a good time to reflect on things we want to see change in the world... I think there's some good that can come from this pandemic if we can all look inside and examine what's going on with ourselves and how we’re reacting to the situation and how we can resolve conflicts through improving ourselves internally,” said Privott.
Also in The Current, Natalia Temesgen highlighted the activism of Alex Ward in our community. In response to George Floyd’s unjust murder, Ward organized the March for Injustice, a peaceful march in Uptown Columbus held on June 13, 2020. Nearly 2,000 people came out to march.
Just six months before the crisis hit, our team at The Columbusite made the decision to expand our coverage on local culture to include food. The important role that a culinary environment plays in determining a city’s culture as a whole was simply something we couldn’t ignore.
When the pandemic hit, we continued to advocate for our beloved local restaurants creating The Big Curbside Guide as a resource for consumers to be able to support restaurants that were operating.
Though met with unprecedented challenges, Columbus’ annual Restaurant Week persisted. Accommodations were made to protect customers for COVID-19 with many restaurants offering pick-up and delivery options.
"This year, more than ever, our local restaurants need the economic boost from Restaurant Week and the support from our community is super important," said Stephanie Woodham, founder of Yalla Public Relations.
After seeing so many of you showing up to support our local restaurants, we realized they needed a permanent place on our website. In early fall, we published our Good Food Guide which features some of our favorite local restaurants and what our staff orders when they visit.
SIX FEET APART
Artists continued to show work in unique ways. CSU unveiled Six Feet Apart, an outdoor art exhibit along the Columbus RiverWalk that showcased the work of CSU's graduating seniors.
Here at The Columbusite, we ran our first ever digital art sale to highlight and support local artists. We also continued to expand our Art Directory as a resource to connect local artists of various mediums with potential customers.
Our writers set out to explore arts and culture from the confines of their homes with our Arts and Culture from Home and 5 Things We Would Share Over Coffee This Week With You if We Could series.
In Jenna Klein’s 5 Things she shared a bright spot, “Supporting the arts from home can seem difficult, but Sylus Goodwin has been showing his love for Springer Academy by wearing his Academy shirts everyday this summer. As someone who is incredibly passionate about theatre education, it warms my heart to see it’s impact despite the circumstances.” We couldn’t have agreed more.
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
2020 also brought a lot of introspection to our team as we dug deep to define and redefine our collective voice in a changed world. Our mission statement reads “We believe that positive and diverse information on local arts and culture should be accessible and encouraged throughout a community.” After a content audit of our site and a Zoom staff meeting, we set out to better expand our coverage with more diversity for our growing audience. If there was one thing we all agreed on, it was our wholehearted commitment to providing a collective voice that truly reflected our community.
In June, we shared the talents of 12 Black Creatives from Columbus, GA You Should Be Following Online. “The artists in this article are some of the finest in our community. They are movers and shakers - not only here, but regionally and nationally, and yes - even worldwide. They do not require an introduction, but thankfully we have the honor of introducing some of them to you,” wrote Carrie Beth Wallace.
Our coverage of BIPOC artists and community leaders will continue to expand in 2021. We’re thrilled to explore this important, intentional continued fight for inclusion with you in the coming year. We’re working to secure more BIPOC writers and connect with more under-represented artists. We’re searching, reflecting, and developing ways to continue bettering our collective voice as advocates for all.
When our Nation endured a long and divisive election amongst a pandemic we meditated on the state of in-between.
“There has always been a we. Now more than ever we feel it. When one part of the we hurts we all do; the country a body bruised and bleeding internally. It is easy to choose ignorance, to push through the pain and act like it’s not there, but this leads to deepened injury. We can only do so much. We can do what helps or what hurts. Beyond politics. Beyond opinion. We are human,” wrote Blake Blackmon.
We also reimagined the way we utilized The Sunday Best this year. In addition to fully redesigning it and utilizing a new platform, we restructured it as a way to reach more people online with the content we were producing on behalf of our partners. The result was increased interest, added engagement, and a new way of creating touch points for that segment of our audience entirely.
COMFORT AND JOY
Somewhere along the lines March turned into December and we sought safe ways to celebrate and get in the spirit. Thanks to the dedication and perseverance of the team at The Columbus Ballet, and the wholehearted collaboration from countless individuals and organizations in our community many were able to view The Masked Nutcracker from the comfort of their own homes for free.
“There were multiple times that I was watching the monitor and I got teary-eyed. It's hard to explain. It was just beautiful to watch our dancers translate their work to the screen...Everything about it was magical,” said this year’s Director Kylie Casino.
Springer’s holiday production of Winter Wonderettes also went virtual for safety reasons. Our team was thrilled to assist in spreading the word with our “Pack the House from Home” campaign in The Sunday Best and through all of our social media accounts. We also gave away a livestream ticket in our Columbus Christmas 12 Days of Giveaway and ensured that as many of our audience members as possible knew about this fun holiday opportunity to see some live theatre.
We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of Columbusites who have been turning on our shared Christmas Playlist and jumping in their cars to go on this year’s Christmas Light Tour Guide. More than 500 hundred of you shared the article on Facebook, and we’ve gotten countless messages and photos from you enjoying the tour with loved ones. It’s made our holiday seasons so special! We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the 2020 holiday season, so we sent our love, lots of light, and plenty of Christmas Cheer.
“Christmas remains a unifying holiday even when many of us must remain separate. If anything, take joy in the camaraderie of enjoying the same spectacular lights as your fellow Columbusites. Afterall, as Martin Luther King said it best, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” wrote Blake Blackmon in her introduction to this year’s Guide.