Artbeat is usually dedicated to telling the stories of those in the arts in our communities. But these are extraordinary times with the coronavirus pandemic upon us, affecting everyone, including those in the arts, so this column will take a different look today.

In the coming weeks, possibly longer, Big Week will likely look different too. But that’s not what is important. What matters here, besides everyone in our community staying healthy, is that this will be an especially trying time for our local artists, organizations and venues. 

Concerts and shows are being canceled or postponed. Visual art events may not be well attended if venues do remain open. Fundraising events are being delayed.   

Many local performing arts groups and entities work hard to make ends meet. Open Door Theater, which had a “Ladies of Jazz” series planned this month, is closed for now. In Berwyn, 16th Street Theater has been working to move into a newly renovated space on Harlem Avenue. While still in their current space on 16th Street, they have cancelled live performances of Methtacular!, slated to begin March 19. “Stay tuned as we are looking into how to bring password-protected streaming of Methtacular! to all ticket holders,” their website states.

The Symphony of Oak Park-River Forest had a grand show planned for April 20, along with several choirs, at Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. That performance has been shelved and will likely be rescheduled for spring of 2021. It is a big fundraiser, much needed in a time where other community orchestras are going away as they lose donors, such as Lake Forest Symphony and Park Ridge Symphony, according to David Leehey, board president of the Symphony of OP/RF. Our local symphony continues to win awards, snagging the Illinois Council of Orchestras award for Best Board President for Leehey, a doctor who plays piano and is dedicated to this impressive orchestra led by Music Director Jay Friedman. Despite that, they too have lost a major donor and need support and ticket sales to thrive.

The Nineteenth Century Charitable Association has suspended all programing through March. The Hemingway Birthplace Museum and Pleasant Home are also closed for tours and events.

All these changes have also affected local students in the arts. Some Oak Park and River Forest High School musicians have put in significant practice hours, only to have their orchestra and band concerts cancelled. Theater students at Fenwick who were preparing a production of Shrek (which would have been featured here) have had their play curtained. Outstanding works from students in visual art classes at OPRF had their Panache Art Show at Cheney Mansion taken off the calendar.

If you are healthy and able to get out, you can view visual art at places like the Oak Park Art League, Forest Park National Bank, and on the Concordia University campus at Kretzmann Hall (Students are on break through March 22).

And this may be the perfect time to catch up on some reading. While the Oak Park Public Libraries and River Forest Library are closed through at least the end of March, The Book Table, 1045 Lake St., Oak Park’s bookseller, is open and offering some new services — curbside pickup and local delivery. 

“If you pay in advance for an order, call us from our loading zone during regular business hours and we will run it out to your car for free,” said The Book Table email. And, “we will offer $3 local delivery to Oak Park and River Forest customers. Orders for in-stock merchandise placed before noon will be delivered the same day.”

As you think of how to fill your quarantined days, remember local artists and organizations. Order a book by a local author. Donate to one or more of the many area arts organizations. Plan to buy tickets with friends when things open again. Buy artwork from a local maker. Tell a student whose show was canceled that you’re proud of the work they put into it. 

Here, you may see more features on local authors, visual artists and venues. And, we’ll do our best to keep you up to date on the arts community. 

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