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New Year. Same Four Walls. – How We Create Connections in 2021by Matt Olin on January 6, 2021
[NOTE: The image above of CreativeMornings/CLT at Divine Barrel in March of 2020 (the last time the group met in person) fills me with emotions — a longing to HUG everyone I see … and a bit of terror. “Ah! Where are the masks!?!?! “How life has changed!]
After nearly 10 months of social isolation, I have to ask: How’re you holding up?
If you’re anything like me, you’re craving a return to connection. At this point, I don’t even care where I get it. In the audience at a local theater performance? In a board meeting? From a stranger in an alleyway? Doesn’t matter – just hook me up with some real-life hugs and high fives, stat!
Unfortunately, it seems we’re a long way — and several million inoculations — away from gathering together as we once did.
So much has changed over the last year, but there’s one thing COVID-19 can’t end — our need to be together. We humans are biologically wired to be connected. The need to reach out to each other is baked into our DNA.
I speak from some experience here. I have an identical twin, Mike. That means I’ve been connected to another person from minute one. I don’t know what it’s like not to be in relation to someone else. This has long fascinated me. I’m not alone. Research conducted by the University of Turin suggests that twins are not only aware of their counterparts in the womb, but that they prefer to interact with them. Twins reach out to one another, in utero, to connect with one another.
So there, science has spoken: We prefer engaging with each other rather than minding our own business. Which makes a global pandemic really hard. A little alone time was okay. But, March seems like a long time ago.
I speak often to performing artists, whose very passion and livelihood is hinged upon connecting with others through their craft. They are persisting, but they’re hurting. They miss us. We miss them. And, we all miss each other.
This leads me to ask:
What will gatherings look like in 2021?
It’s been encouraging (and even a little exciting) to see how creatives adapted to the pandemic — innovating with virtual performances, leaning into new online meeting tools and making the most of a chance to rebuild our expectations of how community engagement and entertainment work.
But how much longer will that last? When can we finally be together again on stage or in an audience?
My best guess is that, when it comes to community gatherings, 2021 will be a year of hybrids, innovation and more experimentation. Arts leaders, like Blumenthal Performing Arts CEO Tom Gabbard (read about his creative journey), are working hard to explore how rapid tests, used in tandem with other safety measures, can help get us back into our theaters and concerts halls ASAP. Once more of the population has been vaccinated, I think events will eventually offer a live ticket and a virtual ticket, so you can choose your experience based on your comfort level. For creatives, that’s both a burden and a welcome challenge. It presents yet another opportunity to develop new ways to create connections with an audience.
So, no coasting this year. Moving two audiences (virtual and actual) at the same time will take some getting used to, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.
Creating connections is one of the reasons I helped establish Charlotte Is Creative and The Biscuit. I can’t wait to see what creatives do with the next challenge. And, we’ll be sharing their innovations and best practices as we encounter them here in The Biscuit.