Over the course of the last month, the ramifications of the COVID-19 public gathering requirements have caused a significant shake-up in the local arts scene.
In spite of what it’s meant for live performances and physical arts exhibitions, a number of Canberra institutions and performers have adapted on the fly, finding ways to share their work with the community in accordance with the restrictions by broadcasting online.
The Canberra Symphony Orchestra led the charge locally, cancelling their opening mainstage event Llewellyn One and instead recording Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony – the centrepiece of the original program – without an audience, and then distributing it online.
As of 7 April, the performance has enjoyed an audience of over 3,000 ‘virtual subscribers’ on YouTube.
Below are two other instances of innovative digital arts initiatives that have been undertaken locally.
Museum bridges the distance
The National Museum of Australia has established a national platform to record shared experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of an integrated community outreach program in this difficult time.
Australians who wish to share their experiences, stories, reflections and images from the pandemic are invited to join the Museum’s Facebook group, Bridging the Distance – Sharing Our COVID-19 Pandemic Experiences, and to take part in a national conversation around an event that is unprecedented in our times and which is already a defining moment in the nation’s history.
The Museum will hold the content shared on this platform as a record of these times and look to develop an exhibition based on the stories it contains.
The Museum’s director Dr Mathew Trinca said they are committed to recording the stories of this pandemic, which is redefining the way Australians, live, work, share and communicate.
“The story of this coronavirus calamity is still unfolding but our memories and recollections of the pandemic will resound for many years to come.
“We hope to both help bridge the isolation many of us are feeling right now and assist Australians to help make sense of this period when they look back on it in years to come,” he said.
The Museum’s broader digital initiative #YourMuseum also includes online chats with curators, online gallery tours and video object profiles; nma.gov.au
Craft ACT chronicles a journey of a thousand miles
“In light of COVID-19, many of us have been forced to slow down and have found a renewed appreciation of walks around our own city and surrounds,” said Craft ACT programs director, Kate Nixon.
“With the very real prospect of this freedom being taken away, wayfaring is more precious than ever.”
Craft ACT’s new online exhibition Wayfaring features work by four artists who have created carefully crafted jewellery and objects about walked journeys, memory and place.
Meaning ‘to travel by foot’, Wayfaring is a creative collaboration tour of three Australian cities and features work by artists with close associations to Tasmania: Bella Dower, Sara Lindsay, Sarah Stubbs and Zoë Veness.
With social distancing measures firmly in place, Craft ACT has embarked on its own journey – to take exhibitions online to a virtual audience.
“We have refocused our work to digitally connect Australia’s high-quality studio practice to the world and are delighted to host the work of these talented and thoughtful artists in the ambitious Wayfaring exhibition,” said CEO/artistic director of Craft ACT, Rachael Coghlan.
The first iteration of Wayfaring took place at the influential Radiant Pavilion, Melbourne in September 2019.
The second installment of Wayfaring at Craft ACT builds on the Melbourne show with new work developed by each artist to test materials and processes, combinations of objects and display configurations.
Although visitors cannot physically visit the gallery, Wayfaring can be enjoyed online at craftact.org.au