I HAVE been asking myself ‘what do the arts mean to me’? The arts, for me, represent creativity, growth and friendship. The arts bring people together, even during the most difficult of times.
Every day, but especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, each and every one of us turns to the arts for comfort and entertainment. Take a moment to imagine what the past 13 weeks would have been like without literature, music, television, film and art. The richness of our lives comes directly from the arts and they help to strengthen our community bonds.
Since the CIT Cork School of Music closed its doors on March 12, we have missed sharing the hard work of our students with the people of Cork. CIT Cork School of Music is a national leader in performing arts education. It presents approximately 400 performances each year and is an important cultural hub for our city, as well as a creative home for our students and staff. We are fortunate to experience the richness of the arts on a daily basis and strive to engage with our community through concerts, education and outreach.
The arts community in Cork is strong and closely knit, which encourages collaboration. CIT Cork School of Music has partnered with the Crawford Art Gallery since 2018 on the Music at Midday series. Students from CIT Cork School of Music perform in different spaces throughout the Gallery allowing the artwork to be viewed in a new light and the music to be heard with new ears. The series has a loyal following, which demonstrates the public desire for creative expression through mixed media. This partnership allows our students to reach new audiences in Cork and promotes the creative work of Cork Institute of Technology, soon to become Munster Technological University. Even during the pandemic, this has continued with a stunning online performance by CIT Cork School of Music students Ellen and Anna Jansson.
Irish artists have engaged with audiences in new and innovative ways throughout the lockdown to ensure that audience relationships remain cultivated.
Festivals and arts organisations are thinking outside the box and presenting artwork in new and inventive ways.
Cork Midsummer Festival is at the forefront of this innovation with events for all ages and interests available through outdoor events and online performances. Leaders in the arts such as Mary McCarthy (Director – Crawford Art Gallery), Julie Kelleher (Artistic Director – The Everyman Theatre), Eibhlín Gleeson (CEO – Cork Opera House) and Lorraine Maye (Director – Cork Midsummer Festival) strive to ensure that our industries continue to grow and develop, and that partnerships are nurtured.
Another positive outcome from the Covid-19 pandemic is the creation of new partnerships nationwide. The Ode to Joy project will feature performers from 30 music and arts organisations around Ireland who will come together on Sunday June 21, European Music Day, to thank our Frontline heroes. The project will be launched at the National Concert Hall and will then feature performances by 600,000 people, including myself, who will leave their homes to perform outside their front doors, for nursing homes or in green areas in their locality. To get involved please visit www.odetojoy.ie
As a teacher and lecturer, finding innovative and enjoyable ways to engage with students has been challenging but seeing the enthusiastic faces of students each week has been a driving force for me. While there are challenges, there are also positives. My students have been focused and driven and I have observed significant improvements in self-efficacy.
As a lecturer, performing is my research and it ties me strongly to the arts community. With my performing calendar wiped clean, I mourned many events such as “Sea Trilogy” at The Everyman Theatre featuring Cork composers Irene Buckley and John O’Brien, the Crawford Art Gallery Summer Series and the Cork Proms at Cork Opera House. There were, however, glimmers of hope in the darkness. Cork composer Paul Frost’s “The Burning of Cork” was a piece that I enjoyed performing from the safety of my living room. I look forward to hearing a live performance of this new work that depicts a notorious historic event in Cork.
We have to protect our vibrant performing arts sector in Cork as we plan our return to a new normal. It has taken many years to cultivate and without support it could evaporate in a matter of months. Arts workers are the ideal community to spur its return – they have the creativity and innovation to overcome the challenges we face, but they need to have suitable investment and public support.
While we have found ways to engage with our students and audiences online, the heart of music and the arts resides in live performance. Covid-19 is changing the way our society functions in fundamental ways. Waiting for the return of normality isn’t an option – the industry will be decimated if we wait. Political support is crucial and necessary for the survival of our sector. We have to be brave. Artists have never been afraid to take risks and because we are brave, I have hope for the future.