Coronavirus In Ohio: Artists Adapting To Work During Lockdown

Apr 17, 2020

A glass artist making sculptures in her garage. Musicians playing duets by splicing together self-recorded video. A dance company holding classes and auditions on Zoom.

Ohio’s COVID-19 stay-at-home directive has forced some Columbus artists to get creative about how they work.

From Garage To Glass Studio

Professional artist Jacci Delaney specializes in creating glass sculptures. Since 2014, her studio has been in Glass Axis on W. Town Street. But when Glass Axis shut down in mid-March, Delaney brought all of her supplies home and started converting her garage into her studio.

“I had initially planned to do that anyway but, because of the shut-down, I am doing that much faster now,” Delaney said in a recent interview via Zoom.

At home, Delaney didn’t have a casting kiln – one of her most important tools – so she bought one. She also had to update the electricity in her home to run the new kiln safely.

“It’s a little bit costly to update it, but it’ll be worth it if I can keep making work,” Delaney said.

Delaney’s artwork is usually sold through Brandt-Roberts Galleries in the Short North, but art gallery sales aren’t coming in right now. In addition to her income from making art, Delaney was also teaching classes at Glass Axis – which she can't do either.

Professional glass sculptor Jacci Delaney converted her garage into her studio when social distancing went into effect in Ohio.
Credit Jacci Delaney

“I lost both sets of income from that,” Delaney said.

So Delaney is doing what she can to keep creating work, and to pay the bills for outfitting her garage studio.

“I didn’t know how long it would be before everybody started working again, and I didn’t want to wait six months before starting to work again," Delaney said. "I also panic-bought some glass for the same reason. And that’s all been expensive, so I have to do a lot of work and just keep making.”

Delaney says it will take her several more weeks before she is producing new artworks at her normal rate. But her current situation will make one key part of working much more difficult: She can't share ideas with the community of artists at Glass Axis as easily as before.

“I think the isolation is affecting me,” Delaney said. “I like going to Glass Axis and seeing what my peers are working on. It’s great to be able to ask other artists questions and get their input on ideas and how to do things. That’s what I miss the most right now.”

New Collaborations

The COVID-9 lockdown has inspired the musicians of the Columbus-based string quartet Chamber Brews to create a new collaborative concert series in an effort to stay connected with their audience while in-person performances aren’t allowed.

“Our mission has always been to connect our audience with music and to connect music with our audience,” said violinist and Chamber Brews co-founder Devin Copfer.

#ChamberBrewsPlayIn is a duet video series in which each of the quartet’s musicians and some local collaborators video record one half of a duet. The quartet has invited musicians everywhere to submit videos of themselves playing the other half of those duets.

Musicians can submit their videos through an online submission form on the Chamber Brews’ website and Instagram pages. Then Chamber Brews musicians join together both halves of each duet and publish the resulting videos on Instagram and Facebook.

Here's Cellist Sarah Hansen with Chamber Brews co-founder Elizabeth Jeremica in two cello duets by Bartok on #ChamberBrewsPlayIn:

Copfer video recorded herself playing half of a Mozart duet for violin and viola. So far she has received video responses from some violists, but also from musicians who performed the duet’s viola part on guitar, clarinet or tuba.

“Those instruments are all transposing instruments, so they would have had to arrange those pieces for their instruments," Copfer says. "So, it was just exciting to see those musicians putting the extra effort in to be able to make music long distance.”

#ChamberBrewsPlayIn is funded by the Johnstone Fund for New Music, and Copfer says the project has allowed the quartet to keep performing – albeit onscreen – while expanding its online presence.

“It’s been a learning experience not just from the performing standpoint, but technologically speaking – figuring out the best ways to put this content out into the world and really taking the time to expand our online reach,” said Copfer. “It has been really exciting and kind of nerve-wracking, but it’s a good thing.”

So good that Copfer says she and her quartet colleagues are considering continuing #ChamberBrewsPlayIn even after the current lockdown ends.

“One of the things we’ve always believed in from day one is that our projects are stronger together," Copfer says. "To me, that means by enrolling as many people as possible into the success of our programs, we’ve been able to see them flourish in ways that I never thought would happen. What’s really awesome is having the space now to see what develops.”

Beyond their duet video series, Chamber Brews has been using the time in self-quarantine to plan a collaboration with Columbus Modern Dance Company (CoMo Dance). Chamber Brews and CoMo Dance will perform several new dance pieces choreographed to original music that will be selected in a competitive screening process.

“We’ve done collaborations before, and they have always been our most successful performances,” Copfer said.

The first performance of the Chamber Brews – CoMo Dance collaboration, which is supported by the Johnstone Fund for New Music and the Greater Columbus Arts Council – is scheduled for fall 2020, but when and how the COVID-19 lockdown ends could change that timetable.

Even if the scheduled fall performance must be delayed, Copfer says she and her collaborators have flexibility for when they can present the show, and that the show definitely will go on – sometime.

“We’ll be able to continue to work on the pieces throughout the year, even if (the performance) ends up being postponed to the spring or to the fall,” Copfer said. “Having the security of that performance gives us something really exciting to look forward to.”

Bodies And Space And Time

Sarah Hixon, artistic director of Hixon Dance, is looking forward to a time when she can resume planning for her company’s upcoming season performances when, right now, all of the key ingredients she and her dance company need are not available to them.

“The hard thing about creating dance is that it really is a collaborative process from the ground up. You need bodies and space and time,” Hixon said. 

In the face of the COVID-19 emergency, Hixon Dance canceled what would have been its final performances of the 2019-20 season, a collaboration with the Ohio Song Project, two local composers and a local poet. The company has also had to cancel all dance classes through at least May 10, and Hixon says the summer camps that Hixon Dance had planned to offer in June might also be in jeopardy.

Hixon hopes her company will be able to reschedule the scrapped April performances sometime next season. But the ongoing COVID-19 emergency and the uncertain timetable on which the lockdown will end have so far not allowed her to reschedule the performance.

The longer the lockdown continues, the more difficult scheduling that or any other future performance is likely to be.

“We do need time ahead of a performance date to prepare, and dance is one of those things that just takes time because you can’t do that at home on your own. You have to be in the studio with other bodies,” Hixon said.

As the lockdown draws on, Hixon and her dancers are doing what they can online to stay in shape and to stay connected with each other.

“The company is working on trying to figure out a way to do some Zoom classes, so I am able to teach and the dancers are able to do something in their homes. We’re really talking about a limited way to try to stay in shape in these times,” Hixon said. “It’s not adequate, as far as really being able to accomplish what you can accomplish in a dance class, but it is enough to get by.”

Hixon Dance is also leveraging the power of the internet to hold company auditions for the first time entirely online. The process invites dancers to upload applications and complete video audition reels to the company’s website.

“It’s obviously better to see dancers in person and to get to talk to them and get to know them a little it before making decisions about personnel,” Hixon said. “But I’ve had projects come up before where I’ve needed dancers in a hurry, and we have done that through video reel online before.”

Meanwhile, until the COVID-19 emergency abates, and as the company’s administrative operations remain in what she describes as a “wait-and-hold” pattern, Hixon is keeping her eyes on the calendar.

“I’m questioning how early can I get dancers in the studio and make sure those projects can happen,” Hixon said. “I don’t even know if our fall projects are feasible at this point. I’m moving ahead as if they are. I’d hate to abandon them too soon.”