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Annual Report: The Future is Bright

A stormy year brought silver linings to Cape and Islands Arts Organizations.

A group of artists work with a live model in the Cultural Center of Cape Cod’s Great Hall.

In March 2020, when non-essential businesses began closing their doors due to the health crisis caused by COVID-19, Cape and Islands cultural organizations were faced with taking the initiative in reimagining their work in the community around new health and safety protocols. Five leading arts and culture organizations in the Cape and Islands community share how, when in-person engagement became limited, they seized the opportunity to reimagine their programming, grow engagement beyond their physical location, and increase accessibility to what they had to offer. It took a lot of creativity, patience, innovation and lots of internet bandwidth. 

Museums and cultural organizations faced an uncertain landscape, but saw in the restrictions posed by the pandemic an opportunity to open their resources up to the virtual world. Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) CEO Christine McCarthy credits the agility and tech savviness of her staff for shifting immediately to virtual formats for their exhibitions. They started with creating websites for the artwork, but this quickly advanced to an impressive virtual experience titled “PAAM: The 3D, Virtual Experience.” With a 3D camera purchased through grant funding, PAAM used the Matterport virtual tour program and app to stitch together these images and create an immersive and fully virtual experience that allows visitors to explore the galleries and the work on display. 

Similar to PAAM, the Creative Arts Center (CAC)—an integral part of the Chatham community for over 50 years—explored the capabilities of a more realistic virtual exhibition experience with the Matterport app. While artwork from exhibitions can be viewed in a slideshow format on the website, virtual visitors can opt to move through the gallery space on Crowell Road and contemplate the curated groupings of artwork on each wall, from the comfort of their computer, wherever in the world that may be. 

A virtual art class using Zoom.

Ashley Santos, Associate Director of Marketing at the Nantucket Historical Association, felt that their organization was well-prepared in terms of delivering digital exhibits that celebrated the island’s history, like exploring the historic Edward Carey whaleship.

“The silver lining was that we were somewhat prepared because we have so much great content to share digitally, from scholarly articles, historic photos, digital exhibitions, historic videos, as well as our online volunteer transcription program for our collection of ship logs that we have been digitizing,” said Santos. “We didn’t need to scramble to figure out how to create new content, it was more about taking the time to really start sharing all these online offerings we always had available to our community, but perhaps, weren’t as explored due to a lot of our interactions and story-telling being held in-person.” 

While translating images of objects to online galleries was one challenge, orchestrating an entire live-streamed concert was a horse of a different color for the Cape Symphony. Led by Artistic Director & Conductor Jung-Ho Pak, the live performance of Aaron Copland’s “Suite from Appalachian Spring,” was streamed live for free on Facebook. Executive Director Dr. Michael Albaugh said this undertaking was one of the most stressful performances put on by the Symphony due to pandemic restrictions and the live-streaming technology, but the impressive turnout and resulting generous donations made the effort more than worth it. 

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