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Despite Social Distancing, Local Artists Find Ways To Help Bring Audiences Together

Clockwise from left: Rainbow Militia, Sarah Slaton and Slow Caves.

With the need for social distancing, most events are canceled for the foreseeable future and artists ranging from musicians to dancers are losing jobs. That has some looking for creative ways to make ends meet.

The spring and summer concert and festival seasons are when many musicians make the bulk of their income for the year.

Fort Collins musician Sarah Slaton has experienced it from both sides — seeing all her own gigs canceled and then having to call other artists to cancel shows as part of her other job booking musicians and sound board operators for the Live on the Lanes showcase at an area bowling alley.

"It's not easy to have anyone get a phone call or an email telling them … that their upcoming show is canceled or they don't have a gig to run sound for," Slaton said. "There's a lot of people right now who are hurting."

Slaton toured with her former band Edison for years and said her social media feed is full of similar stories from area venues, other artists and sound engineers, as well as venue staff working the box offices and bars.

It was after seeing all these messages that Slaton reached out to friend and fellow musician Michael Kirkpatrick to see what they might be able to do for local artists when. That was when the idea to create an online music venue came up.

Within 24 hours, they'd come up with a name, the NoCo Live From Home Show, and a lineup featuring Slaton and seven other local musicians, including headliner Slow Caves. The band had recently canceled its entire West Coast tour due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The March 21 virtual music fest will include links to each performer's Venmo or Cash App account where viewers can donate directly to the artists.

Musicians around the world are doing similar events. Locally, that includes the Rocky Mountain Virtual Festival and the Colorado Quarantine Fest. Events like these help everyone, Slaton said.

"I think whenever you have a live-stream video, people can not feel so alone and they have something to look forward to to watch," she said. "We're all in it together so — I know that every musician needs the people watching just as much as people watching might need a show to take a break from all the news."

Area artists are also tapping into their other skills. Amber Blais is the founder of the Denver circus troupe Rainbow Militia. While she currently performs as an aerial artist, she also has a background in marketing and event planning.

Blais said she realized that a lot of artists have additional skills they utilize, so she created the Colorado Artist Talent and Skills Database, a place where artists can list their skillsets — whether it's web coding or landscaping or teaching yoga — to find work to get them through this tough time.

"It's scary right now but I really want to put the message out there that our community is really strong and there's a lot of people who can help us to thrive," Blais said. "And if you have the means to be able to do so, now is your chance to really support the arts and make sure that it doesn't disappear when the time comes to start back up again. I don't want it to be a scary message — there is a lot of hope but now's the time to act."

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Stacy was KUNC's arts and culture reporter from 2015 to 2021.
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