Editor’s Letter, September 2020: An Arts Recalibration

At a time when we look to the arts for insight into understanding each other and our struggles, these institutions had to shut their doors, cut staff, and postpone new work.

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

As the pandemic shutdown creeps into another month, more and more seasonal touchstones and traditions get trampled. Over the summer you and your family probably missed out on a big vacation, Fourth of July fireworks, Reds games, or the kids’ YMCA camp—the kind of activities you look forward to all year.

Now, as we hit September, I naturally think about school reopening, new arts seasons, and football, hoping they can avoid complete upending. But as I write this column in early August, I find it hard to imagine much in-person classwork or high school and college football any time soon.

Our friends in the arts are also trying to recalibrate their new theater, dance, concert, and event seasons. In our “Arts Restart” stories this month, a variety of arts leaders and working artists discuss the financial and creative challenges they’re battling to remain relevant to their supporters and the wider Cincinnati community. At a time when we look to the arts for insight into understanding each other and our struggles with the pandemic, the economic downturn, and racial issues raised in the Black Lives Matter movement, these institutions had to shut their doors, cut staff positions, and postpone new work.

Museums have reopened, for now, but not venues featuring live performances. At their core, what the arts offer us are unique, one-time experiences: seeing an actor sweat and spit on stage 20 feet from you, jumping around in a packed concert hall yelling with your friends, feeling an orchestra’s brass section in your chest, building something with your child at a hands-on museum display, getting the giggles in a comedy club. Arts groups tried to come up with virtual substitutes to grab our attention, entertain us, and inform us, and we’re thankful for their effort. But it isn’t the same. They know it. We all know it.

The day is coming when we’ll be able to laugh, cry, and applaud again in a room full of people experiencing their own one-time moments. But not yet.

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