Photo | Alabama contemporary Art center
Sydney sawyer’s submission in Alabama contemporary Art center’s Postcards from Quarantine project.
You think the national mood is dismal? It’s especially so in New Orleans, where the per-capita rise in COVID-19 cases has been one of the nation’s steepest.
On April 1, the pandemic may have taken the life of 85-year-old Crescent City jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis. Test results were pending when he passed away in a local hospital. His son Branford stated the rampant contagion as cause in a released statement.
Mobile and New Orleans are cultural siblings. Baldwin County native Rebecca Barry attended The University of New Orleans in the late 1990s and served as Marsalis’ graduate assistant while there.
“You just broke my heart,” Barry said in a text message when told of her mentor’s passing.
Barry explained she was the only female jazz major when Marsalis took her under his wing. She explained it as “a tough environment” for females.
“A lot of [teachers] didn’t like me because I was a girl. I had one teacher who, when I got a great Jazz Fest slot, told me, ‘Don’t let your popularity keep you from learning how to play,’” Barry said. “Ellis was like, ‘Man, he’s just jealous; don’t let it get you down.’ I almost quit but he convinced me otherwise.”
Barry cited the example and constant encouragement of her own students. She avoids breaking their spirit.
“He would always say, ‘I don’t teach jazz, I teach students,’” Barry said.
The saxophonist estimated Marsalis taught “thousands of great musicians” over the decades; “everybody that was somebody.” After achieving her own local notoriety, Barry would still make time to watch her old teacher work his weekly gig at Snug Harbor.
“I would play down on Frenchman [Street] and would go watch him after I was done. All the time,” Barry said.
That toughness is essential now. Other Mobile-area entities are working to forge a path through the pandemic’s new patterns of life.
Mobile Arts Council (MAC) will move the April 17 LoDa ArtWalk beyond its customary realm. Director Lucy Gafford said they are trying to work with vendors to find a way for online sales, and live music will be streamed on the ArtWalk Facebook page, facebook.com/LODAartwalk.
“We’re going to use an infographic on the site about what venues are doing and might include curbside pickup and takeout,” Gafford said.
MAC’s new “Five” competition between area college students will be viewable online. Its awards presentation is tentatively set for May now.
MAC is also hustling as fast as they can to help artists and organizations affected by the pandemic. There are compiling a COVID-19 Impact Survey on Mobile Area Arts and Culture. It’s available through a link on their site at mobilearts.org/covid-19-artist-resources.
Also on the same page, you can find a resource guide for fundraising in the current economic landscape, how to apply for Small Business Administration disaster loans and emergency grants, information about the Kinkade Family Foundation Emergency Grant for Curators, Alabama Arts Alliance resources, Alabama State Council on the Arts surveys and 24 other resources available for various artistic genres.
The Eastern Shore Art Center has a similar list on their website. Alabama Contemporary Art Center (ACAC) has a list as well. While all these sites share some avenues and ideas, there are ideas and resources listed only on one or two pages with constant changes, so scrutinize accordingly.
ACAC’s site also lists resources for non-artists. They have online concerts, art demos and virtual tours at assorted institutions.
May 6 is ACAC’s tentative reopening date for their gallery (301 Conti St.). Their “One Night Bandstand” membership rally has been set for June 18, 7-10 p.m. It includes free entrance for members and two free drink tickets.
Forty submissions in ACAC’s Postcards From Quarantine project are on their website. Winners will be announced around April 8.
Though Mobile Ballet had to postpone their “Beauty and the Beast” show, they originally planned to continue classes in late April. Instead, studios are closed pending further word and classes are available online through Zoom.
Playhouse in the Park was preparing for their own version of “Beauty and the Beast” this spring and that’s on hold as well. There’s no word on a new date as rehearsals are impossible under current conditions. They are offering free online acting classes for ages 13 through 19 via the Zoom app. Text Danny Mollise at 251-422-5434 if you would like to join.
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