Fostering Collaboration to Strengthen the Regional Arts Community – The Virginian-Pilot


Three years ago, I attended the Governor’s School for the Arts in Norfolk, which introduced me to the arts and music community of Hampton Roads. As a current honors student at Old Dominion University, I have remained engaged with area artists as we have all navigated the changes of recent years.

Every day, tech companies reiterate the ways we can interface with each other. Social platforms, your favorite fitness app, and your recipe planner are all adding features that gamify the user experience. Our technology was designed to suck us in.

It’s not completely our fault; we are psychologically wired to love being sucked into our phones, computers, and televisions. However, the unwanted side effects of these activities have started to come into the spotlight in recent years. The claim that greater interconnectedness across space and time has also cost us awareness of our space and time is not new. In other words, technology has created cracks in our sense of community across America.

Instead of defending this from scratch, I would like to build on this premise and examine its relevance to Hampton Roads and our artistic community.

When I studied jazz music at Governor’s School for the Arts, one of the first lessons I was taught was the social element of art. Art does not like to flourish in a vacuum. The interaction and collaboration between artists is the essence that makes artistic works so wonderful: plays, films, jazz combos, etc. This quality of art works against any force that impairs the ability of the community to form strong interconnections. It is therefore clear that artistic and creative activities from all avenues can present themselves as a means of strengthening our community in Hampton Roads.

Fortunately, Hampton Roads has a history of strong cultural and artistic creation. Even during lockdowns and quarantines, new musical groups have emerged in the area and artists have found ways to continue their craft through hardship and hardship. With various theaters and performance halls scattered throughout the region, the flame of creativity is burning. So what more needs to be done to strengthen our community?

To Artists: We must strive to foster inclusivity, collaboration, and engagement with our community of fans, die-hard supporters, and fellow artists. A wonderful example of this is the In[HEIR]itance Project, who wrote and produced a play based on stories and conversations from our community.

Give people an excuse to interact with each other. Promote workshops in real life and on social media. Collaborate with members of our community and dare to tell a story about us. Allow others to iterate on your musical riffs, narrative creations, and visual artwork.

To non-artists: be ready to step out of your comfort zone and create something – anything – with those around you. It could be chalking up a sidewalk, getting the group together, volunteering to build the set for your local little theater, or doing tie-dye with a group of co-workers. Go to karaoke nights and open mics, meet other people doing the same.

By nurturing our sense of community through Hampton Roads, we not only create a healthier and more livable environment, but we also enable Hampton Roads to fulfill its potential as a center for culture and the arts. As technology develops and continues to change the way we can interact with each other, it becomes more important that our local community is strong and interconnected.

Myles Perry is an honors student at Old Dominion University and a resident of Virginia Beach.

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