A closure notice on The Arts Station door. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

Local artists struggle due to cancelled shows and closed shops

Creatives everywhere are in search of alternative ways to keep their content going

With businesses forced to close doors throughout the Elk Valley, local artists have been faced with struggles in showcasing their art as shops and venues shut down. “For the arts, it is all about connection, and this is primarily done by in person interaction. The biggest challenge right now is how we can continue to provide that connection,” according to Louise Ferguson, executive director at The Arts Station.

“It is important to remember at this time that while our building has always been that hub, it is actually the people within it that create that community, and we can continue to facilitate connection and collaboration through virtual platforms.”

Ferguson mentioned that while financial contributions are helpful for the art community, she recognizes this is a difficult time for everyone. Therefore, she urges both content creators and consumers to send their energy online.

Both tangible and musical artwork can be purchased, streamed, and commissioned virtually, making the web a great alternative to supporting artists physically. For instance, Spotify made playlists with artists who have had to cancel tours, arts centres have posted online classes and virtual exhibits, and performers have live streamed their shows in an effort to find alternative ways to showcase their art.

“Artists are inspired by their everyday environments and often the creation of their work is a way to express themselves. They will continue to create during this period, and even though we cannot meet in person, let us come together and connect through art in this new virtual reality,” said Ferguson. “When we can again connect in person, make sure to buy concert tickets, attend performances and art galleries as well as learn through workshops and demos. We look forward to that day, but in the meantime enjoy the current offerings and let’s do what we can to support one another and the arts in Fernie.”

Despite having their shows cancelled and their venues closed, many Fernie artists have also devised creative ways to spread joy through entertainment during these isolating times. For instance, Shred Kelly put on a live streamed acoustic concert in their backyard to bring the community together through music. Residents throughout the Elk Valley tuned in to the streamed concert, which replaced the postponed Fernie Stoke Fest, from the safety of their porches and living rooms.

“Depending how things go with COVID-19 and the measures that Canada is currently taking, we are hopeful that we can find another date [for Fernie Stoke Fest] in the spring. It will depend on the availability of the venue and artists. We will give an update as soon as we know more,” said Sage McBride, member of Shred Kelly and event organizer.

Any guests who require refunds from online purchases can access them through Eventbrite, and those who bought physical tickets are instructed to contact the organizers at ferniestokefest@gmail.com.

“Our heart goes out to everyone in town who is being impacted. The small businesses, the staff and everyone who has had their world shift overnight. We will hopefully be doing some live streams during the time of isolation so that we can still feel a connection to our community and spend time together online instead of in person,” said McBride.

Another local musician who has been impacted by COVID-19 is Isabel Enks, an Australian singer who frequented Fernie stages. Though Enks has joined the group of people who have flown back to their home countries at this time, she hopes to return to Fernie in the near future.

“The true impact of COVID-19 is quite a mystery, however so far it has been an unprecedented challenge for all. I think I speak on behalf of many in the entertainment industry when I say our sector was definitely one of the first to be hit. COVID-19 has not only affected the global concert business, but individual artists, musicians and entertainers on all scales,” said Enks. “Although the physical platforms and venues aren’t currently available for artists to perform in, we do have the magic of the online world, so with some creativity and persistence I’ll definitely be jumping more online. COVID-19 is definitely going to shape the future of the music industry.”

Enks is currently accepting song requests via her Facebook at Isabel Enks Music, and through Instagram at @IsabelEnks, as she seeks to upload more content during her self isolation. The young artist encouraged people to reach out and stay connected with one another as much as possible at this time.

Cryptic Hive tattoo shop, has also been affected by the recent ban on personal service establishments such as spas and tattoo parlours. Though the shop had to shut its doors, they may continue to accept a few requests for commission artwork or paintings. Using this time to creatively explore new skills and tools, Cryptic Hive mentioned in a Facebook post that this is a great opportunity for anyone to request unique projects. For up to date information or to make a request, visit their Instagram @cryptichive or their Facebook page.

Ferguson reminded the public to continue supporting art, and for artists to remain resilient and creative during these changing times. She also urged artists to record their loss of income as recommended by government and granting agencies, and to use this time to further develop skills, catch up on administrative duties, and take advantage of free online content.

For more information on this, or The Arts Station’s free online Professional Development for Artists webinars and workshops, head to their website or social media accounts.

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Cryptic Hive Tattoo and Art Theatre is not offering in-person services for the time being. Soranne Floarea/The Free Press

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