These days I shuffle between waking up in the morning to eat my partner’s freshly baked sourdough before work (read: I am so privileged and grateful and full) to feeling ghastly overwhelmed by the unprecedented circumstances. While we’re certainly all in this together, the sentiment far from calms me. So I’ve been turning to art, be it painting sessions with friends, reading, or filling my home with music. Isn’t that what art is for in the first place? Not so much to calm us, perhaps, but to make us reflect upon the current state of the world.
Art presents us with different viewpoints of how to approach an idea. We can extract meaning from the chaos, or we can use art to add to that chaos, to join in and give ourselves some sort of agency. Creating in this time has been a release for many of us, an adventure to try and stretch our own creativity. It’s also been, for me at least, a huge point of connection.
My best friend and I hosted a virtual art night a few weeks back. We had friends from all over the world tune in and created a cyber connection that filled me in a way that almost felt like the rush you get from a truly stellar social interaction. The premise was simple: come and share whatever it is you make. Drink whiskey (or whatever you have left in your alcohol stash). Hangout with good people and celebrate art.
The point is not to be “good” at whatever it is you do, rather to promote creation and to share those creations in a safe space. If you’re bored and looking for a way to spice up a Saturday evening, here are some tips on how to create your own online art share.
1. Find Yourself a Co-host
I’ve been a part of the curating team for these types of cultural gatherings for a few years now and having at least one co-host is the key to success. Organizing an event like this with someone else makes it so much easier to divide the work and hold each other accountable. It also relieves pressure when you have someone to bounce ideas off of.
A good co-host should be someone you trust to do the things they say they’ll do (i.e. make the google doc of performers, spellcheck the Facebook event you set up). But most importantly, they’ll be the moral support an hour before the event when you freak out wondering “are people even going to come to this?”
2. Gather the Artists
Step one with any sort of event is to curate the performers. It helps if you are normally surrounded by a creative bunch as the people who have some sort of performance experience are always the most willing to share. But if most of your friends don’t collage excessively or perform live concerts regularly, don’t worry! A little bit of encouragement goes a long way. “Curating” really means reaching out to those friends of yours that you know are creating. I’m talking the one friend who took up knitting, watercolor painting, tik-tok dance routines—whatever it may be. Reach out to any and all of your circle and gently suggest (aggressively beg) that they participate in this super cool, hip, fun event of yours.
3. Spread the Word
Make a Facebook page, post it on Instagram in advance and the day off, send reminders. Even though people’s schedules are seemingly “open” these days we all still have a lot going on. Whether it’s been a long week of family check-in calls, or a killer work week, it’s easy to forget what day it is and make plans to sit on your couch alone. So make sure that people know the date and are reminded of that. This will ensure 1) more participation and 2) some sort of audience for those that are willing to share.
4. Learn How to Navigate Zoom
Zoom has proven to be the quarantine platform favorite, but cutting the event off after 45 minutes will not do. With a business account (ask around if you don’t have one, I’m sure someone will be willing to share) not only are you able to ensure a longer lasting event, but you’ll be able to mute all the audience members. The mute button (which you know if you’ve ever been in a group zoom) is an absolutely necessary function. As coordinator you (along with your nifty co-host) will have to have a base-level understanding of how to operate un-muting people, sharing screens, etc. A simple perusal of Zoom and perhaps a practice call or two should be enough for you to master the platform.
5. Have a Game Plan
During each event there should always be a list of the performers with a rough idea of what they will be presenting. Have a lot of singer/songwriters? Fantastic. But let’s be real, no one wants to listen to 10 different “Wish You Were Here” covers in a row. Switch up the order, alternating between a poetry reading to a killer dance routine to an artist showing their paintings. Talk to your co-host before to agree on the arrangement and make sure you both can see the list during the event.
6. Be Ready to Make Changes On the Fly
There will always be people that express interest in sharing that, come the day of the event, bail. On the other hand, there will always be those shy ones who don’t want to perform until they see how not scary it is and want to join in! Be flexible and accommodating. Be ready to move people up the list when someone hasn’t shown up and to add people to the bottom of it, if time permits.
7. Keep the Energy Up
Running a live show online means that undoubtedly there’s going to be some awkward in betweens as people tune their guitar or navigate a faulty wifi situation. Fill up those spaces with introductions of the next performer, cute little back and forths with your co-host, or whatever you can think of. But make sure to keep the energy high and the positivity a-flowing.
8. Don’t Expect Perfection
Things might get a little spotty, but think about it like a hipster café: it’s the quirk that gives it its charm. Someone’s sound is going to be shitty, someone’s video is going to glitch, and that’s okay. The point is that you are creating a space for people to share themselves. Somehow you will all feel closer to one another for it (even if some are strangers you’ve never met). Because no matter where you are, or what type of quarantine you’re having, you’re all sharing a screen with intention. You’re opening yourselves up to listen to someone else. You’re consuming the vulnerability of someone and there’s such a beauty to that.
Be kind to the performers. Ask them questions. Compliment the things you like. And when that one guy comes on who reads for way too long, take your bathroom break, refill your glass, and return refreshed.