Canceled, postponed: Coronavirus puts squeeze on local art

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Nearly every live performance has been moved online, canceled or postponed, as the severity of coronavirus prevention measures escalate.

As of this article’s publication, Executive Order 2020-11 prohibits all assemblages of more than 50 people in a single indoor shared space and all events of more than 50 people. Exceptions apply to health care facilities; workplaces or portions thereof not open to the public; the state legislature; and assemblages for the purpose of mass transit, the purchase of groceries or consumer goods, or the performance of agricultural or construction work. The executive order lasts until April 5 at 5 p.m.

Capital City Film Festival is postponed; Broad Art Museum is closed to the public; Wharton Center has postponed or canceled its March shows, Mac’s Bar is closed down and the MSU College of Music has canceled its spring semester lineup. That’s only naming a few institutions that have suspended their content. City Pulse could fill this entire page with a list of what’s canceled in Lansing.

And so the question lingers: Now what?

For Capital City Film Festival organizer Dominic Cochran, the plan is to launch a smaller version of the festival this summer, in the hopes that coronavirus will by then be contained. Then, the move is to host CCFF’s 10th anniversary celebration in 2021.

“We started discussing it early on, when only Washington was a hot spot,” Cochran said. “We planned on having social distancing measures, such as putting seats further apart, but once it did come to Michigan and the large-gathering mandate came down, that’s when we had to react.”

Cochran said the long-term damage to major events that have been outright canceled might be mitigated, considering coronavirus is a worldwide crisis and not an isolated incident.

“The whole entire world is dealing with this. Everyone is in the same boat,” Cochran said. “This is an industry-wide thing. We’ll have to regroup and grow together.”

But the cancelation leaves many filmmakers without a venue to premiere their film and a volley of musical performances that aren’t going to happen.

John Thompson, drummer with Lansing punk band Dasterds, which was slated to perform at CCFF with Dogleg April 11, is feeling the sting of not just that show’s cancelation, but the cancelation of every show the band had booked for spring.

At first, Thompson wondered whether he was over-reacting. “But just a few days after we made the decision, all these mandates started coming from the state,” he said. “It’s important to think of this as something for the greater good. I’d really encourage people to think beyond themselves and realize that this is important for keeping the most vulnerable in our community safe and healthy.”

Robin Theatre owner Dylan Rogers is also feeling the emotional blow in the wake of local arts being shut down seemingly overnight, after his venue canceled all of its upcoming events.

“I haven’t stopped thinking about this for days. We’re collectively evolving the conversation every hour. It’s bizarre; I’m starting to feel numb to it. It’s heartbreaking to have to close a space that so many people love visiting, and supports working artists,” Rogers said. “I’m thinking of the artists that are losing months of income. We can only do so many Facebook Live concerts with donation links.”

Rogers said fundraising concert video streams will likely see a boom, but called them “no replacement” for live music.

Lansing’s indie music celebration Stoop Fest, which would’ve launched its fifth, and so far most ambitious edition, will either reschedule — pending successful containment — or be sidelined until 2021.

“It’s certainly a huge bummer. Seeing it come apart sucks, but I think we all feel it was absolutely the right call to make. We wanted to help prevent the spread of the virus, while the health care industry gets this under control,” Stoop Fest organizer Dom Korzecke said. “We’re not mad at the state for prohibiting large gatherings.”

Despite the de facto moratorium, Cochran hopes people can unite in viewing the sacrifice as a necessary precaution.

“Art is a beacon of light in darkness. To have this — hopefully temporary — loss is difficult and heartbreaking,” Cochran said. “It does seem like an extreme measure, but if it does slow the virus — what we’re really doing is avoiding an actual panic.”

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