As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, One Columbia for Arts and Culture, the City of Columbia-backed arts booster, has introduced another initiative aimed at helping organizations and patrons navigate these confusing times.
On Feb. 17, it unveiled “Shorten the Intermission,” a social media campaign designed to “encourage everyone to follow the guidelines during the pandemic and to help us keep the arts alive,” according to One Columbia’s website.
“The idea was not to require (arts organizations) to do anything, or to change any messaging that they were already doing,” One Columbia Executive Director Lee Snelgrove told Free Times. “Simply just to provide them some resources that they could use, digital resources, and some language, and even a shared hashtag ... to kind of just unify us a little bit in how we communicated with the audiences in Columbia and just continue to remind people that the arts community is doing what it could.”
Splashed with #shortentheintermission, the pink-yelow-and-white graphics that One Columbia has provided for free use are strewn with pithy reminders of good pandemic behavior — “Wash your hands,” “Stand six feet apart,” and “Stay at home if you can.”
That last directive is an interesting one.
Several prominent Columbia arts organizations are open for some kind of limited business right now, from the Columbia Museum of Art offering hourly appointments for masked visitors to view their galleries to the South Carolina Philharmonic playing for small crowds in addition to live-streaming their concerts.
But Snelgrove and One Columbia Office Manager Jemimah Ekeh don’t feel there’s much danger of the campaign suppressing these instances of limited attendance, or local groups pushing back over that concern.
“We’re an arts organization that has to promote the arts and cultural events within the city, that’s part of our mission,” offered Ekeh, who is taking the lead in rolling out the campaign. “But also, Lee and I were very aware and honestly very invested in the safety of our community. And so the balancing act that we’re trying to pursue (is) that, yes, while we want you to stay at home, or we want you to be safe, if you can at some point, however you can, support an arts organizer or an artist, we would also appreciate that, too. Because a lot of the arts organizations and arts workers, they too have to figure out how to survive and sustain their living during this entire process.”
“It is about just trying to share that the arts community is doing the best that it can to balance the safety of its patrons and the needs of the arts organizations to continue to exist and to be able to come back stronger post-pandemic,” he added.
This hope that the campaign can be adapted to each group’s individual situation is illustrated by the two prefab blurs that One Columbia gives to consider using with its graphics.
There’s “Can’t wait to get back to the stage. In the meantime, let’s practice social distancing guidelines and #shortentheintermission,” a nice fit for groups that haven’t yet returned to in-person events.
But there’s also “Support artists and art workers by doing your part to slow the spread. #shortentheintermission,” which could easily suit an organization that is striving to responsibly re-engage live audiences.
Kristin Morris is the marketing and communications director for the South Carolina Philharmonic. She is also currently the president of One Columbia’s board of directors. And while the city’s premiere orchestra doesn’t adhere to a strict reading of that “Stay home if you can” directive, she doesn’t see this as problematic.
“Over the past year we strived to make our music accessible to our entire community and all the varying comfortability levels when it comes to venturing out of the house,” she said. “We offer a virtual stream of all of our classical concerts at an affordable price, along with very limited in-person tickets to certain concerts. When we began having some audience members back at the Koger Center it was with stringent restrictions. Right now we allow 20 percent capacity in the concert hall for our patrons who only want an in-person experience. This diminished capacity is supported by social distancing in the concert hall and a strict mask enforcement policy.
“At this time, we don’t anticipate the campaign’s calls to action to detract from attendance, but reinforce good habits for folks who are taking strong precautions.”
To find out more about the campaign and to access materials, go to onecolumbiasc.com/shorten-the-intermission-campaign.