The proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” has proved true again and again during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” has proved true again and again during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m guessing that every reader—no matter career, avocation, or interests—has found that business-as-usual has been transformed by innovations in technology. Museums are no exception: at Woodmere, we have learned to produce video tours of exhibitions and collection highlights, reinvented education activities for Zoom classrooms, and built new partnerships and new audiences while working remotely. That said, nothing can replace the one-on-one engagement with works of art. And we must also recognize that the digital divide between those who can and cannot afford technology is a sweeping social concern. Nonetheless, many of the technological innovations that have taken place since March 2020 will continue onward as we build the “new normal” that emerges from the pandemic.
At Woodmere, we have our fingers crossed as we envision a year ahead that transitions us back to the social interactions—performances, lectures, cocktail parties—that are so much a part of life in our galleries. In particular, I miss our jazz program, and many of you have reached out to me asking for its return. Here’s the plan: as soon as the weather improves, likely in April or iMay, we will be offering jazz on our front lawn as we did last September and October, continuing our long-standing partnership with the Lifeline Music Coalition. My hope is that that by fall, we will be able to move jazz back indoors.
Meanwhile, we are using technology to extend the experience and keep in contact with our jazz community. Last month we launched a series of about 10 short videos that we are calling JAZZ from the ART, which capture highlights of the outdoor jazz concerts that took place on our grounds this past fall. Everyone brought their own lawn chairs, set them up six feet apart, brought a picnic or glass of wine, wore their masks, and had a safe, great time. Until we are able to restart the program this spring, we will release a new JAZZ from the ART video on our website every Saturday, sharing them via our social media channels and in our biweekly email newsletters (see: lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/yaacrev/woodmere)
In addition to the performances, the videos will include a short conversation between musician Warren Oree and me that describes the specific compositions and shines a light on the unique talents of the individual musicians we have all come to love through their performances at Woodmere. The pilot video features the wonderful Sherry Wilson Butler singing Cole Porter’s classic “Cheek to Cheek.” I’m in heaven when I hear Butler’s voice, and there will be more to say about her remarkable talent and uniquely fascinating career in upcoming videos. For now, we invite you to sit back and enjoy her smoky smooth voice and improvisational scatting as she pays tribute to the great Ella Fitzgerald. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy JAZZ from the ART.
William Valerio is the director of Woodmere Art Museum.