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Two weeks ago, a list of event cancellations throughout San Antonio grew longer as pandemic precautions intensified. Today, anyone with an internet connection has access to a bevy of virtual arts and culture, provided by artists, musicians, writers, organizations, and new local collaborations.
Music and Poetry
Notably, 37 Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony found a way to play together as an ensemble, thanks to some technological wizardry by trombonist Steve Peterson. The video performance of composer Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations appears on YouTube, unfolding in sections first with violins, then cellos, horns, and timpani, appearing as an artistic version of a Zoom conference, solely in the language of music.
The annual Mariachi Vargas extravaganza is still scheduled for Nov. 29 to Dec. 5, but in the meantime, mariachi players and students have lost their venues and groups their practice sessions. Eloy Garza of the Mariachi Nuevo Santander Varsity student troupe in the Texas border town of Roma responded by gathering his students via the Zoom conferencing web application, and had them each record parts for a rendition of a classic Mariachi Vargas song, El Relámpago. Fifteen students participated, four playing armonías, with nine violins and two trumpets.
Language is at the forefront of Mega Corazon, a one-day poetry reading extravaganza put on by neighborhood arts organization Urban-15. The event is native to the web broadcast platform, with only the slight adjustment of its performers reading from home in observance of social distancing protocols. The live virtual event happened April 6, but will be rebroadcast each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during April, once at 10 a.m. and again at 6 p.m.
Musical Bridges Around the World (MBAW) has pivoted from its live music programming to offer web rebroadcasts of “The Gurwitz,” the first so-named annual international piano competition that culminated Feb. 2. MBAW has also posted interviews with the three now-quarantined finalists on YouTube, from their locations in Paris, Italy, and New York. MBAW will also livestream Dreams from Afar, a web concert joining artists from Belgium and Florida, Sunday, April 12 at 7 p.m.
Solo artists are finding it harder to engage audiences from their own homes, but have taken to various social media platforms to find community.
San Antonio Poet Laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson has begun her 2020-2022 term in isolation, but launched a crowd-sourced poetry campaign on Facebook, asking followers to respond to the prompt, “My tongue is … .” She has received more than 200 responses to date, including from Charles “EasyLee” Peters, that reads:
My tongue is
And the solution
The Department of Arts and Culture has moved its National Poetry Month programming online, with a full monthlong schedule posted here. The site links to a new online literary journal called Tejascovido, which gathers writing from Texas poets, authors, teachers, and photographers for publication on its website.
Singer-songwriter Noah Harris took to Instagram, releasing videos of original music and cover songs appropriate to the occasion. He began his new string of live recordings March 20, with Here In San Antone, an original song with the line “we stay in most every night.” The lyric referred to being new parents, but takes on new meaning during the pandemic.
In his post, Harris made a plea for support for Lowcountry, the bar and music venue where he’s played regularly since 2014, which has been largely shuttered due to the countywide Stay Home, Work Safe order.
Theater and Storytelling
Magik Theatre has moved its performance and educational programming to online platforms, with live broadcasts on Facebook. The slate of programming, including Reader’s Theatre, MadLibs, Pirate Pete and Friends, and yoga for children, is available on the theater’s website.
The Twig Book Shop, which remains open for online orders of its “essential brain food,” with curbside pickup or free delivery inside Loop 410, also continues to offer story time online, with Miss Anastasia and other special guests telling stories.
The DoSeum has created DO it at Home online programming, including story time, do-it-yourself crafts, and a daily “Ask a Doer” interactive question-and-answer informational session.
The Public Theater of San Antonio would have opened Bright Star on World Theater Day March 27, but instead its cast went to YouTube to offer hope for a brighter future.
Gemini Ink will use Zoom for its free April 18-19 Voices of Recovery Storytelling Workshops for cancer survivors. Registration is required for limited workshop slots, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Visual Arts and Museums
A new online platform for local artists to share their wares was started by a team of arts administrators from various nonprofit organizations, including Heather Eichling, program assistant for Trinity University’s Humanities Collection; Jon Hinojosa, executive director of SAY Sí; Mary Heathcott, director of Blue Star Contemporary; and Malena Gonzales-Cid of Centro Cultural Aztlan.
The Supporting Artists in San Antonio Facebook marketplace grows every day with new submissions, from painters selling work and seeking commissions, to silversmiths and jewelers who have set up online stores.
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Glasstire, an online arts magazine based in Houston, has assembled Five Minute Tours of art exhibitions all over Texas, including several sites in San Antonio. Glasstire also links to the new Social Distancing Festival, a worldwide conglomeration of visual arts, music, dance, and theater.
The San Antonio Museum of Art has created SAMA Anywhere web content, with digital exhibition tours, story time on Thursdays, views of its collections, and an online museum shop.
The McNay Art Museum is active on social media, including virtual tours of its current exhibitions on YouTube, and Villa Finale has posted its collections online for a room-by-room virtual tour.
The Witte Museum’s Where You Are programming includes health and safety tips from Captain Calcium and Tiny Tex, a free downloadable museum activity book, and History Detective Videos that include recipes of the Old South.
And while the Southwest School of Art has canceled its community classes, moved college instruction online, and closed its art exhibitions, it hasn’t lost its sense of humor. While its annual Savor the Arts gala fundraiser didn’t take place, it sent an email seeking donations for its “Non-Savor the Arts” socially distanced version, with cleverly named funding levels including “I didn’t want to dress up anyway” and “I can support from the comfort of my couch.”
Disclosure: Reporter Nicholas Frank has an artwork included in a current exhibition at the McNay Art Museum.