Arts Organizations: Pivot. Adapt. Adjust.

Photo courtesy of Arts Foundation Cape Cod

December 14, 2020 - Arts Foundation Cape Cod Staff – www.artscapecod.org

How do you sum up 2020 in one word? Pivot. Adapt. Adjust.

That is exactly what so many artists and cultural organizations on Cape Cod have had to do this year to survive. There is no blueprint for how to deal with a pandemic, but three leaders of local nonprofits shared with Arts Cape Cod their approach to dealing with this once-in-a-lifetime event. 

Matt Scinto, Music Director (Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra)

Formed in 2018, the Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra entered its third season this fall.  The concert schedule that founder Matt Scinto had planned at the beginning of the year had to be scrapped. 

Instead of postponing performances indefinitely, Scinto said, “I’ve been adamant about keeping the momentum of our group going. We had a virtual concert premiere in October. …We had to restrategize the music we’re doing and still put on a compelling program virtually. It’s been tough, but we’re still trying to capture our orchestra’s experience online. 

“It’s really hard for classical music because a lot of special things about it happen live in the room with a collective group of people experiencing it,” he continued. 

That in-person connection is now happening online for the orchestra which held its second virtual concert of the season, Songs of Midwinter, this month. 

As a fledgling organization, Scinto said his goal was to continue the growth it had experienced the past two years. It’s why he was adamant about continuing concerts this season even if they were unlike any they had ever performed before. “Every year we take steps forward,” he said. “I didn’t want this year to be any different.” 

He embraced this attitude for another reason – survival. “In order for our organization to get through this, we have to adapt in ways that make sense safety wise and with whatever government guidance we have,” he stressed, adding that it also is important for the musicians the orchestra employs. “People working in our sector, we can’t just take a year off. We always need people’s continued support so we can continue making programs and fulfill our orchestra’s mission.” 

Kevin Rice, Executive Artistic Director (Payomet Performing Arts Center

Creatively, 2020 was the year the drive-in returned with a vengeance. At Payomet, Executive Artistic Director Kevin Rice used that model to salvage some of its season. 

“We’ve really been blindsided by this thing. It takes the wind out of your sails,” Rice said of the pandemic’s impact on his nonprofit. “We were able to mount a fraction of our season using a drive-in format.” 

Initially, Payomet did what many creatives and cultural nonprofits did. “We jumped on the virtual Zoom and Facebook live bandwagon, streaming performances,” Rice said. “As soon as the warmer weather came, we literally built a big stage to be able to have a tiny drive-in which was limited to capacity of no more than 40 people.” 

Like his other cultural leaders on the Cape, Rice said, it was imperative for his organization to “continue to pursue our mission for, as I put it, to keep the flame lit. At certain times of the year, I felt like it was a candle flickering in the wind as we head into the winter when we know we’re going to do some virtual programming and performances and some instructional classes, either online or live in-person.”

If there’s any industry that can withstand the type of challenges the pandemic has posed, Rice firmly believes it’s the arts. “Artists have found ways to be more creative than ever when it comes to ways to experience the arts,” he said. 

And with all the stress the past nine months has posed, Rice said, the arts are critical to all of our lives. “You hear about the importance of our physical health and our biological health, but the arts speak to our mental and spiritual health,” he said. “They are equally important. One can’t survive without the other.” 

David Drake, Artistic Director (Provincetown Theater)

As the Artistic Director for the Provincetown Theater, David Drake views his role as one that should “nourish the souls of our community.”

Without the ability to do that through live performances, Drake has been forced to embrace virtual productions. As it says on the Provincetown Theater’s website, “the show must go online.” 

“We found we needed to shift our energy to stay connected to our patrons for their goodwill,” he said of the decision to embrace virtual performances. In doing so, it has kept local audiences connected to an “institution they love.” 

In May, the theater held a virtual story slam focused on moms in advance of Mother’s Day. In October, Drake wrote and directed a 40-minute play, Ghost Light: A Provincetown Ghost Story, that was live-streamed on the theater’s website. And this month, it is holding its annual Townie Holiday Extravaganza, featuring 20 Cape Cod entertainers, online. 

This winter, Drake said, the Provincetown Theater plans to hold its popular development series for new plays online. 

Thanks to a grant from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, Provincetown Theater will reconfigure its current space so it can safely hold in-person performances in 2021. “We’re looking at some creative options to keep people healthy and safe,” he said, highlighting the unique communal experience that live theater provides. 

Until in-person performances can return, Drake said, the Provincetown Theater will work diligently to navigate these uncharted waters. “Really, we’re doing it through new plays and experiences online to float us through getting back in front of people” he said. “The community is appreciative of it. I run into them at the store and they’ll say, ‘Thank you for doing that program. Thank you for keeping us entertained and connected.’ It’s really heartening. They don’t want us to go away. They want us to be here. And I do too. I want to be there for them and for me.”