‘Staying Upbeat’ set for Thursday

In the time of COVID-19, many arts performances have been cancelled, postponed or altered to help people stay safe from the virus. 
A panel discussion titled “Staying Upbeat” is set for Thursday. The interactive panel will focus on arts opportunities during the pandemic. Presented by Allegro Chorale and Cassatt in the Basin, Staying Upbeat is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 14 on the Allegro Chorale Facebook page. It is hosted by the Odessa Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.
Expected participants are Allegro Chorale President Michael Jordan, Cassatt Quartet violinist Jennifer Leshnower, Ken Sieloff, is the head choir director at Permian High School and artistic director and conductor of the Allegro Chorale; Odessa Arts Executive Director Randy Ham, Odessa High School Associate Choir Director Rob Rodgers, and recently added Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, noted TED talk speaker and master teacher.
“I’m looking forward to having a really good discussion. We’re going to have some questions that we’ll deal with and respond to,” Jordan said. “I hope it’s going to be informative.”
Leshnower said it’s been difficult to perform and provide lessons to students during the pandemic, but they have found ways to make their projects work.
The quartet offered its first online Cassatt in the Basin summer program.
They also plan to start an art therapy program to local organizations working with people who have experienced trauma from the pandemic and/or the Aug. 31, 2019, mass shootings.
Since the technology is available, the quartet is using it to stay active, purposeful and relevant, Leshnower said. They participated in the world premier of an opera called “Aede of the Ocean and Land.”
Ham said he thinks it’s important to look at the cultural effects this pandemic is going to have on the cultural landscape in the days, weeks, months and years to come.
“I don’t think we’re going to go back to the way things were. I think we’ll have some sort of hybrid. Obviously public gathering is going to be important, but some of the things that have been done during the pandemic will probably carry over and stick around. It will be interesting to get other people’s perspective on that and what worked and what didn’t and how we can move forward,” Ham said.
One of the great things to come out of the pandemic, Ham said, was that people leaned on the arts for comfort “when we couldn’t do anything else.”
“I was very proud of our cultural institutions (that took) an active role in giving people an outlet and I hope that continues through this next year, as well,” Ham said.
With the COVID vaccination rolling out, Ham said he hopes in-person events can resume soon.
“I miss them so much. I miss people. I miss seeing live theater and seeing live music, so we’re all working towards that but it’s going to take the community to help us with that and that means practicing social distancing and wearing a mask and getting your vaccine so that we can get back to the business of entertaining and providing for our community,” Ham said.
Ethan Wills is executive director of the Midland-Odessa Symphony and Chorale. He was going to participate, but he and his wife are expecting a baby.
Willis said it’s important for all the arts organizations to work together and find a path forward and find ways to adapt to COVID.
“I think (if) everybody works together and talks and remains open it just heightens all the other arts groups so I think it’s good,” Willis said.
He added that it’s been nice to see that there is still demand for the arts.
“… I just feel like without the arts through this pandemic it’s just been really difficult and I think every little bit you can get helps. It’s not the same, but having a football season, having hockey, having some bit of baseball everybody’s trying to do something and when that happens I think, generally speaking, spirits get uplifted and I hate to see the arts impacted in that way. if these other sports teams can kind of push ahead and try and do it safely, we’ve got to find a way to do it, too,” Willis said.
According to data from Odessa Arts from its Americans for the Arts survey, in 2019 the City of Odessa invested $700,000 in hotel occupancy tax to cultural nonprofits. Ham said that generated over $6 million in economic activity for the City of Odessa in one year.
“That is an 800 percent return on investment. The arts nonprofits supported over 200 full-time equivalent jobs, contributed over $275,000 in local government revenue and $300,000 in state government revenue,” Ham said.
The average Odessa resident, when going to a cultural event, spends $27.30. That includes the price of admission, parking, any meals or special retail, like if you went out and bought a new dress for the concert. $27 per person for every event, he said.
“The average cultural tourist, which is somebody that comes from outside of Odessa and attends a cultural event, spent $79 — three times as much. When you start looking at cultural tourism, that’s not just hotel but it does include hotel, and these are people I’m not just talking about people that maybe come from Rankin and come into Odessa to go to the Ellen Noel, it’s also people that come here for business but then go ahead and attend an event at the Permian Playhouse, or go see a symphony concert while they’re here,” Ham said.