Austin’s Creative Community Moves Online During COVID-19 Outbreak
You can still enjoy the arts from home.
By Shelley Seale
It started on March 6, when the SXSW Festival was cancelled for the first time in its 34-year history. While the coronavirus outbreak was making its way around the world and affecting everyday life on a massive scale, Austin’s economy felt the SXSW cancellation hit to the tune of around $350 million, according to Mayor Steve Adler.
The attendees of the festival — the musicians, filmmakers, tech companies, start-ups and other creatives and entrepreneurs — were also hard hit. As our community struggled to adjust to this new normal and contain the spread of the virus, many people and small businesses lost work and revenue, began closing down and found themselves in a precarious position.
And Austinites began to rally around our citizens who were the most devastated by this pandemic. Emergency funds were set up, along with websites of resources such as Rally Austin. Musicians began livestreaming virtual performances to people self-isolating at home. Artists started setting up online exhibits and galleries. Facebook and Google groups were quickly created to provide a supportive community for freelancers, artists and people newly navigating a work-from-home environment. Austin did what it does best: create a sense of community, even in the most difficult and singular circumstances.
We compiled a resource for where to find some of these, and show your support for your neighbors. Such support may very well be what keeps a musician, independent filmmaker, artist or small business afloat right now. This list is far from comprehensive, as the situation changes daily (if not hourly), but it’s a good place to start:
Austin City Limits Radio organized this special broadcast at 8 p.m. on March 20, with musical artists including Britt Daniel of Spoon, Shakey Graves, The Texas Gentlemen, Bob Schneider, Jackie Venson, Guy & Jeska Forsyth, Hanson and Lisa Loeb. Also slated are guests from the bar and restaurant community, from HAAM, and visits with Mayor Steve Adler. The website states: “It’s a program dedicated to the folks who are hardest hit by the SXSW cancellation and ensuing health crisis — the music and service industry pros who literally have made our city famous.” The broadcast is still available to stream.
The official SXSW YouTube channel contains more than 700 music videos from festival artists. It might not be the same as seeing and hearing them in person, but you can listen in from the safety of your social distancing space. Dance all you want.
Former City Councilwoman Nikki Sunstrum organized a two-day #VirtualSXSW event, exploring a variety of topics with 25-minute speakers, all online. Sunstrum also created a Facebook Group for the event, which will continue to provide virtual resources for the community. Watch all the sessions on YouTube.
Entrepreneur Tony Aguilar’s response to the SXSW cancellation was to create a virtual Sunday brunch with friends across North America. This led to the formation of this Facebook Group, which streams musical performances, yoga and meditation classes, cooking demonstrations from local restaurants, and other digital socializing events. As of March 19, the group had more than 1,500 members. Check it out and take advantage of some great free content.
Local party rocker DJ Mel held his first virtual Living Room Dance Party, livestreamed on Facebook, on March 14. Thousands tuned in for the party, which lasted from 6 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday morning. Within days, close to a million people had watched the video replay. DJ Mel announced that he will be continuing the virtual parties. Even if you’re at home alone, you can have a party of one — with perhaps one million new friends.
The city’s public library has curated a list of Central Texas music through artist submission that it is providing for free. At any given time, there are around 100 albums by Texas musicians available to enjoy. Explore the state’s rich music tapestry without leaving home.
The Blanton is an incredible world-class art museum to visit. But did you know that it has an immense online collection? It’s the largest public collection in Central Texas, in fact, and it’s free to peruse and admire virtually. Consider setting up a date to view at the same time as a friend who’s also in isolation. Then discuss!