The heavy sigh of Mary Burch, director of development for the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA), during a phone interview, said more than words.

Burch was among the members of five arts organization who decided Wednesday to move their planned gala fundraiser from the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts to a virtual presentation.

The gala, planned in early 2021 and titled Celebration to coincide with the expected subsiding of the coronavirus pandemic, was to take place Sept. 16 as an in-person live event with performances by Ballet San Antonio, The Public Theater of San Antonio, San Antonio Chamber Choir, and Youth Orchestras of San Antonio.

Instead, Celebration will air as a recorded broadcast on three occasions: Sept. 18 at 11:30 a.m. on KENS-5, and Sept. 19 on Fox 29 KABB at 7:30 a.m. and on News 4 WOAI at 10 a.m.

Facing an autumn surge in local COVID-19 cases brought on by the delta variant, the organizers of the event realized “we had a civic responsibility,” Burch said, “to not host an in-person event. It just seemed like it would be irresponsible.”

Burch said seeing news reports about overwhelmed hospitals, and the rate of infections among younger people, helped sway the decision.

The five organizations had joined together for the gala fundraiser in part to help recover from the economic devastation caused by the yearlong shutdown of live events. SAMA, dependent in part on ticket sales for its funding, has also suffered reduced attendance.

As a larger organization, SAMA maintains a development department — responsible for fundraising — that Burch thought could help out the smaller organizations. Joining forces would also connect the groups’ separate audiences and raise awareness of San Antonio arts in general, which was reflected in the preliminary ticket sales for the gala, Burch said.

“It was going to be a beautiful event. It really was,” Burch said.

A video team provided by gala co-chairs Kristin and Dick Tips of Mission Park Funeral Home will be dispatched to the various groups to record each of their performances for the broadcast. Viewers will be able to donate during the various broadcasts by text message, using the SAarts (36413) code.

One potential advantage of the move to a virtual event is an expansion of the ticketed audience of 400 at the Tobin Center to the broader reach of broadcast television.

“Now, anybody that wants to can tune in and watch,” Burch said.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...