Area arts thrive despite COVID

By Page H. Gifford

Despite COVID -19, shuttered theaters, empty seats, and empty stages, the arts are thriving and artists and art groups are finding multiple ways to enrich people’s lives during the pandemic. Once Covid-19 hit, its impact walloped hospitality, arts, and entertainment. All of them are feeling the harsh economic impact but in an industry brimming with creative minds they looked for alternative ways to satisfy their audiences.

Musicians, dancers, actors, writers, poets, artists, and vocalists have discovered Zoom is a tool to utilize, and Google, YouTube, and Facebook could be used for sharing something worthwhile as they reconnected with their audiences. The creative collective understood that the arts cannot suffer in silence but must be shared in whatever form it is presented to an eager audience ready to embrace it.

Area artists, including groups like Persimmon Tree Players, The Empowered Players, the Fluvanna Arts Council, and the Fluvanna Art Association are keeping the connections alive and vibrant for those feeling isolated.

Empowered Players went beyond entertainment and engaged its audience in using their imagination with Create-A-Day challenges by finding three things and to make into artwork or a craft item. Mostly it was musicians and vocalists who responded, sharing their inspiration.

EP’s Jessica Harris didn’t stop there. Knowing Halloween was limited in its normal scope of activities, she promoted an online Halloween costume contest with prizes and a lot of clever creations were generated among the children who participated.

Members of the Fluvanna Art Association also shared their artwork. Once they were less leery of COVID-19, a small group ventured outdoors for Plein Air painting while following CDC guidelines.  They exchanged YouTube art videos, virtually traveled to the Louvre and had an online workshop. They learned to adapt, and though it wasn’t the same as an in-person show, they had their annual show online. Many area art groups, including BozArt in Charlottesville, were advocating for safe measures by viewing work online. There is no time limit on the current show which is available for viewing at

“We needed to keep our name out there and keep artists engaged,” said FAA member Maria Carter. Next year they are hoping for at least one judged show.

After the dismal disappointment of shelving its spring show, Ken Ludwig’s “Moon Over Buffalo,” Persimmon Tree Players bounced back with an original play titled “Ernest in Isolation” made for Zoom, written and directed by member Tom Green. They quickly learned the mechanics of Zoom.

No one wants to fade away into obscurity and that was the fear of many of these groups who figured out that  a virtual stage was better than no stage. The Fluvanna Arts Council ended its season early after a sell-out crowd with Big Ray and the Kool Katz. PTP and the Fluvanna Community Singers were canceled due to COVID -19.

The newly appointed president of the FCAC had two choices, cancel the rest of the 20-21 season or go virtual. FCAC kicked off the fall season with the thought-provoking play “The Niceties” The emotionally charged content between a professor and her student was riveting and a good choice for a virtual performance.

Selling tickets was not possible but with grants from various sources, the FCAC was able to put together some stellar performances. Donations were gratefully accepted and “The Niceties,” made over $500 and had over 200 viewers from as far away as California. Recently world-class jazz musician Victor Haskins was recorded live on Facebook with over 200 viewers at Saturday’s performance. The performance was made possible by a partial grant from Fluvanna County, grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, and from the National Endowment for the Arts. The virtual performances helped to expand the FCAC’s audience and offer programs to a variety of performing arts enthusiasts.

“He was interactive with the audience and very engaging,” said Sharon Harris. “Our audience has been served in new ways.”

FCAC will finish the 2020 season with performances online with The Empowered Players “Shrek Jr. The Musical” and “12 Incompetent Jurors.” Visit for dates and times. For the holiday season, the Fluvanna Singers canceled its annual Christmas concert but Horace Scruggs is back with his group to sing a variety of holiday favorites on Dec. 5. Visit for times and details.

All are looking forward at some point in 2021 of getting back onstage and exhibiting art but it is still a long road ahead. Plans are still in the works for PTP to do its spring show and Sharon Harris is working on other concert ideas as well as bringing dance back to Carysbrook virtually with the Charlottesville Ballet.

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