Entertainment venues continue to adapt as pandemic enters third year

·3 min read

Jan. 7—The pandemic will turn 2 years old on Jan. 21, which was the day in 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in America. By April 1, more than half of the world's population was under lockdown.

Due to the Joplin lockdown and safety measures that became the norm in the following months, entertainment — live plays, concerts and movies inside theaters — were put on hold, delayed or entirely abandoned in 2020.

Emily Frankoski, director of Connect2Culture, Joplin's community arts agency, said 2020 had been "a year like no other."

The Joplin arts and cultural community, she continued, faced unprecedented challenges, forcing everyone involved to adapt and find new ways to reach and serve the community, including outdoor and online virtual performances.

"If anything, 2020 proved the resiliency and flexibility of local arts and cultural organizations," Frankoski said. "Since the lockdown, they have been reinventing their programming and offerings to continue safely serving the Joplin community. They are a force to be reckoned with, and their accomplishments in the face of COVID-19 have proven their capabilities many, many times."

With vaccines available to the public in 2021, last year turned into "another memorable year in the Joplin arts and cultural world."

This was accomplished, she said, thanks to the results of a survey conducted in early 2020 where C2C officials gauged community interest in attending in-person events and programs.

More than 530 people responded to the survey, and the results were positive — most notably that 71% of those polled wanted live, indoor events, and 79% of respondents would not be discouraged to attend in-person shows with health precautions in place.

"With information gleaned from that survey, organizations felt comfortable moving forward with in-person programming," Frankoski said, "and 2021 was a much more active year for the arts and culture because of it."

Not once, she added, did she hear complaints about the health and safety efforts made during the various live shows and performances to keep patrons safe.

"We have not yet experienced (any) significant pushback due to implanted COVID-19 protocols," she said.

Last week, C2C released its annual year in review, capturing memorable moments from the past 12 months. Said Frankoski, "It's a great way to remember what Joplin's arts and cultural community has achieved and how lucky we are to have such talent and devotion in the area."

Highlights included a live concert starring Farewell Angelina, the all-female country group who performed at the Joplin Empire Market's outdoor stage. With that success, more outdoor concerts followed in July and August. Under the name of JOMO Jammin', a series of eight musical concerts featuring local musical groups spanning five Saturdays took place at Mercy Park, with large and enthusiastic crowds attending.

As C2C staff continued to "monitor and make adjustments," they brought back the organization's signature Curtains Up series, with "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" taking place in November inside the Joplin High School performing arts center and the Dallas String Quartet's performance inside the Ozark Christian College chapel in December.

In 2022, expect more indoor performances, even as COVID-19 safety protocols — such as limited tickets, masking and social distancing — remain in place.

The year 2021 "was all about getting back to local arts and cultural activities," Frankoski said. "We can't wait to see what's in store for 2022."

There are three more Curtains Up concerts planned in the months ahead: Joplin native Charles McPherson's homecoming celebration early next month, the Ten Tenors on Feb. 26 and Los Angeles Latino band Las Cafeteras in early April at the Joplin Empire Market courtyard.

The Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex opens in late 2022.

"As always, we hope to see Joplin's arts and cultural community continue to flourish and thrive," Frankoski said.

Kevin McClintock is features editor for The Joplin Globe.

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