The COVID-19 outbreak has laid many Durango residents’ plans to waste. It’s also shut down restaurants and bars to on-site dining. Sports seasons have been thrown out – or at least postponed – and schools are taking it day by day.
And then there’s the local arts scene.
Last week, the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College announced it was suspending its scheduled shows for weeks. And in recent days, Durango Arts Center and Allen Theatres have shut their doors for at least the immediate future. This year’s Bluegrass Meltdown, scheduled for April 17-19, has been canceled as well. Galleries have switched to online-only sales or scheduling appointments with art-lovers.
And then there are the local musicians.
Musicians, who are the ones who provide entertainment at restaurants, which are now only open for take-out, are finding themselves in a bind because their gigs are being canceled.
iAM MUSIC wants to help those in the arts community left in financial straits because of the closures and postponements resulting from the coronavirus. The institute has started a Go Fund Me account, called Four Corners Performing Artist Relief, with money raised being given to those who need it.
Sam Kelly, instructor and marketing director at iAM MUSIC, said the fund is for performing artists and musicians who have found themselves out of work during the pandemic. IAM MUSIC itself is feeling the squeeze of closures, too, he said, adding that instructors are trying to move as many of their lessons as they can to Skype.
“It’s hitting us all pretty hard because we’re not just all teachers – all of us are touring and gigging musicians,” he said. “Unfortunately, our friends the Stillhouse Junkies were supposed to be in Europe all next month, and that tour has been canceled. Those of us in J-Calvin, we had a Front Range tour next week and an Arizona tour coming up, and that’s all canceled and postponed. And, of course, our local gigs are just kind of postponed and canceled for the time being.”
According to the fund’s webpage, money raised will be “allocated to qualifying musicians/bands operating within a 100-mile radius of Durango based on overall financial losses from canceled gigs and events. Funds will be disbursed according to individual level of need as determined by an online application.”
For local musician Lacey Black, music is her full-time job, and because of COVID-19, a lot of her gigs have been canceled. She’s keeping the faith, however.
“I’m optimistic, I guess, that over the course of the next couple of months that this will normalize a little bit where there will be enough progress made on the containment of it that restaurants can open again, and the train will run,” she said. “My main job is in the summer in Silverton, also at a restaurant, and so if that doesn’t happen, then my entire year is in flux. That’s like losing a year’s worth of work in six months.”
Black said that fortunately for her, the timing of the shutdowns could have been worse.
“The good thing about the timing of this is if there is a good six weeks of the year to completely go belly up and go crazy, this was the perfect six weeks for me. The next two weeks I was going to lose – I lost some work at Purgatory and at Lone Star and in Ouray, so I lost some major gigs over the next three weeks,” she said. “But, with that being said, April is generally dead – I don’t usually work that much in April, so April is not a big deal for me, but I know it is for other people. I feel like the servers and the other artists who are banking on things like the Bluegrass Meltdown. ... It’s like a one-two punch with April being shoulder season, all these special events usually employ sound personnel, wait staff, caterers, those type of things.
“If it happened in the middle of summer where it’s like, ‘OK, we’re locking down all the restaurants for six months, which, let’s be honest, that still might happen. I’m not ruling that out as a possibility that the summer doesn’t happen for me. That would be financially catastrophic.”
She said a lot of musicians are taking their performances online, doing live concerts on Facebook Live and having virtual tip jars through Venmo and Paypal.
“I’m exploring those ideas as well. I don’t know how effective they’ll be,” Black said. “But I’m lucky that I have a base – I have people across the country who know who I am and appreciate my music, so I have ways to reach them, but I don’t know how effective that would be in a time when everybody is freaking out about money and the economy and everything else.
For Black, stepping up to help artists during this tough time is also a way to help preserve what makes Durango Durango.
“What I have faith in is people supporting the arts because I think everyone knows that if it goes away, our community would be an entirely different thing from here on out. It already is different,” she said. “Once we recover from this virus, if all of us give up on making music or creating art or doing theater, then our entire community will lose its character, so I just have to have hope that people value that and will continue to support it.”
Sunny Gable with Sunny & The Whiskey Machine said everything’s pretty much on the shelf at this point.
“I had a couple of festivals this month that were canceled, and next month. Of course, gigs are getting canceled left and right. All income streams are kind of coming to a standstill,” she said, adding that she’s feeling “a little scared, honestly. It feels precarious and it’s not anything that I think any of us have ever seen in our lifetime. It’s hard to know what to expect at this point.”
Gable, too, said that musicians are turning to livestreaming in this quarantine climate, including herself – she said she’s got a couple of livestreams set up to do as a collaborative effort with a woman’s festival out of Connecticut.
“It seems like that is kind of the platform that musicians are taking to to get some performances in and hopefully get people sending the tips but also just to keep providing the music that’s so healing,” she said.
And for Gable, the community support must extend to everyone, not just those in the arts.
“We need to support each other. People are used to being able to go out and see their music. And with the concerts and festivals being canceled, music is the universal language, the thing that we can all feel together,” she said. “I think more than just supporting musicians, we need to support each other and that we can send out what we’ve got, and hopefully get something in return, even if it’s just the feeling that we’re helping.”