When Carolina Performing Arts was prepping to launch the organization’s 15th anniversary season last spring, they never imagined that a pandemic would cancel many of the performances they planned.
But even though they can’t present the world-renowned performances in-person due to current social distancing guidelines, that isn’t stopping them from engaging the Carolina community in the arts.
Thanks to a new initiative, “CPA at Home,” Carolina Performing Arts fans can now enjoy virtual content for every performance that was originally scheduled for this spring, including exclusive videos.
“We have some things that were recorded specifically for CPA, but we’re also aggregating this really wonderful content that has popped up,” said Christina Rodriguez, CPA’s associate director of marketing and communications. “It’s inspiring for us to see that people have continued to create while adapting to this situation.”
New content is added each week, and different performers are highlighted on CPA’s website and social media accounts.
This week, CPA partnered with New York University’s Abu Dhabi Arts Center to present a livestream of the “Parable of the Sower” opera, which was created by Toshi Reagon, the first artist-in-residence at CPA through the Andrew W. Mellon DisTIL Fellowship and a current fellow in CPA’s Creative Futures initiative.
Reagon hosted the U.S. premiere of the opera at Memorial Hall in 2017, selling out both performances. Thanks to CPA at Home, Rodriguez said, more people will now be able to enjoy Reagon’s work.
“Toshi has built a huge amount of community in her work at CPA and in the Triangle, so there are lots of people who have interacted with her and the work she’s done through her fellowship,” Rodriguez said. “It was so exciting to send an email to all of those people and invite them back into this virtual event with us, where people will be watching in Abu Dhabi and Singapore, in California, in North Carolina and beyond.”
CPA at Home is also working to create a community with staff and patrons. Through features and highlights, patrons can virtually meet various staff members and get recommendations for books, recipes and more.
“We want to continue connecting with people in a really personal way,” Rodriguez said. “We’re showing our faces and demonstrating the sort of things that we’re both working on and taking comfort in right now.”
Though all of CPA’s venues, including Memorial Hall, are temporarily closed, CPA at Home is continuing and expanding on CPA’s mission of offering “exceptional arts experiences that inspire and provoke the UNC community.” Through CPA at Home, Rodriguez said, they can potentially provide more people access to the arts than they could before.
“It’s really gratifying in our day-to-day work to be able to bring different artists to Carolina and to bring programs here that might not ever come to North Carolina or Chapel Hill in another instance,” Rodriguez said. “So, the flip side of that right now is opening up that access to anyone with internet access. Going forward, after we go back to in-person experiences, we will continue to think about how to make sure that the arts feel accessible and welcoming to all people.”