Commentary by Jeffrey C. McDermott
As we head into the 2021-22 arts season this fall, one can’t deny an element of uncertainty posed by the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. I find comfort and inspiration, however, when I consider how we all have adapted, persevered and even excelled amid the unprecedented challenges of the past 18 months.
I’m sure you have seen many examples of courage, compassion, creativity and ingenuity in how your families, neighborhoods, businesses, schools and churches have responded to new realities. I see many examples among my extended family of colleagues at the Center for the Performing Arts and the Great American Songbook Foundation.
Faced with the inability to gather people together physically for shared experiences – which is always at the heart of our mission – we found new ways to reach our patrons and develop new audiences. We beefed up our online educational resources and employed social media to maintain and expand our enrichment programs for people of all ages.
We also invested some of our untapped production budget in new video and streaming technology that allowed us to host national business conferences virtually, and to create new offerings like our Live at the Center livestream series, introducing local musicians to thousands of viewers across the state and nation. In all, our online events since early 2020 have reached more than 45,000 unique viewers, and our new capabilities promise to bring us wider audiences and new revenue streams that will help support the organization into the future.
Now, our patrons, supporters and staff are looking forward to a season more typical of the Center’s first decade of operation. We have nearly 50 Center Presents concerts on the calendar, along with educational opportunities of every stripe and performances by our six fine resident arts companies.
Will we have to adjust to changing circumstances? That’s always the case, but we have proved our ability to adapt to challenges and emerge stronger on the other side. Despite any uncertainties, I am confident of two things: The health and safety of our patrons, artists, staff and community will always be our first priorities, and – with the continued support of our donors, sponsors and other partners – we will find ways to deliver on our mission regardless of circumstance.
I hope you can take time to experience the inspiring, rejuvenating and community-building power of the performing arts this season.
Jeffrey C. McDermott is the president/CEO of the Center for the Performing Arts and the Great American Songbook Foundation.