O is for Online Arts: COVID can't stop creativity

For the last several weeks, we’ve been teasing the content of this year’s A to Z Issue one letter at a time. The print edition arrives in mailboxes later this month, after which we hope it’ll take up residence for a good long while on Tampa Bay’s finest coffee tables. If you can’t wait for the hard copy, here’s the digital version — and meanwhile, welcome to the letter “O”:

These are trying times for artists, but they’ve got one big thing going for them: they’re good at creative problem-solving.

Chad Mize, unable to throw the festive openings that Mize Gallery is known for, leads virtual patrons through his group shows via Facebook Live. David Michael Bowers, a nationally known painter who recently relocated from Pittsburgh to Madeira Beach, is rethinking ways of showcasing his work that don’t depend on galleries; you can see multiple examples of his remarkable “Realism with an Edge” at dmbowers.com. The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete, opting to remain closed for the summer, assembled a full slate of #MuseumfromHome programs, including reports on its rooftop honeybees.

The Straz Center‘s “The Show Must Go On” links to a wealth of performance content and lore. freeFall hosted Zoom discussions of productions streamed by the UK’s National Theatre Live and, in their “Outside the Box” un-boxing videos, surprised performers with mementos from past freeFall shows. Stageworks and Jobsite offered storytimes, games and favorite performers, like the brilliant Alison BurnsAmerican Stage went all out with a summer of virtual performances and classes, including a superbly acted Zoom Othello set in a contemporary police station. Bob Devin Jones, artistic director of The Studio@620, reprised his acclaimed one-man show, Uncle Bends: A Home-Cooked Negro Narrative, as a livestream from his living room.

And at Creative Pinellas, the online innovations were manifold, including a Virtual Arts Festival that raised thousands for the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Fund; “walk-through” exhibitions of work by established and emerging artists; Cindy Stovall’s international variety show Beauty & the Burg Live! Around the World; and an ever-expanding roster of content under the rubric Arts In.

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