Back in early March of this year, I wrote my first blog post for the ZACC, titled ‘A Gallery of the Performing Arts’. It was a dedication to the amazing capacity of our brand new black box theatre, the Show Room, and to the incredible diversity and dynamism of the Missoula performing arts community. It was written just after the largest event we had yet to host, the Rock Lotto benefit for Missoula Community Radio (KFGM), which nearly 500 people attended on the evening of February 29, 2020. Two weeks later we closed to the public, and the stage went dark.
March feels like a century ago now, and the pandemic is still going strong. And while we haven’t hosted any in-person shows in the ZACC Show Room in over six months, the stage lights are glowing and live performances are bringing the space to life again. Our Social Distance Sessions — a live-streaming partnership with Missoula’s Community Media Resource (MCAT) and sponsored by Roemer’s Point S Tire & Auto Service — are showcasing local musicians, comedians, and other performing artists every Saturday at 7:30 PM on the Zootown Arts Facebook and YouTube pages, and on MCAT’s Local Live website. These performances are free, but we solicit donations from the virtual viewers and the vast majority of those donations are paid to the performers. As the winter sets in, we hope this series will provide our local performers and their fans with connection and a respite in the shared experience that only live performance can offer.
While we’re proud of our adaptability and imagination in the production of these pandemic-times performances, they are just a tiny drop in what would have been an ocean of art if COVID-19 hadn’t reached our community. There will still be hundreds of songs left unplayed, jokes untold, and lines unrecited. Our performing artists are still mostly invisible; they are hurting creatively and in many cases, financially. The Social Distance Sessions are only three or four paid gigs available per month (for the entire local performing arts community!), and other opportunities for work are few and far between. These artists really need our help.
If you have the means, consider donating to the ZACC’s Artist & Performer Relief Fund Grant, a trust created to support performing and visual artists during these dark times (to do so, visit the this page or inquire with us via phone). Monies for the grant ran out roughly two weeks ago as I write this, and the end of the pandemic is well beyond the horizon. Though they can’t play gigs and there are fewer opportunities to show their work, these artists still have bills to pay just like the rest of us. We owe it to them as a community to step up. Think of what Missoula would look like without them. Probably like Billings or something ... Just kidding, Billings, you’re alright.
If donating to our grant fund isn’t for you, consider donating directly to an artist who has brought you joy. Buy their work if you can. Check out their Etsy shop or their Bandcamp. Venmo them.
Just please don’t forget about them.
Mikyla Veis, ZACC Marketing, Events, & Community Outreach Coordinator