Arts and Culture Bring Hope and Connection During COVID-19

Golden adapts its offerings, including a rolling curbside concert series Performer Ricky Diamonds commands centre stage in a smoking jacket and greased-back hair, dressed to impress a Las Vegas crowd. But he’s not entertaining in Sin…

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Golden adapts its offerings, including a rolling curbside concert series

Performer Ricky Diamonds commands centre stage in a smoking jacket and greased-back hair, dressed to impress a Las Vegas crowd. But he’s not entertaining in Sin City; he’s a roots musician performing weekly, along with other bands, on a flatbed truck rolling through the neighbourhoods of Golden.

Although COVID-19 greatly impacted touring musicians and cancelled community performances, Kicking Horse Culture adapted its summer programming to take music to the streets with its Summer Kicks 2020 curbside concert series. Executive and Artistic Director Bill Usher and his colleagues found a way to keep rocking and rolling because, after all, the show must go on!

“We—not just my staff, but all of my arts and culture colleagues across the Basin—didn’t quite know what to do at first when the pandemic hit,” says Usher. “The government began recommending closures and social distancing, and we were all just spinning on a dime.”

Due to limits on gathering and physical distancing requirements, hosting a crowd of up to 500 people at its regular Spirit Square venue was no longer viable. Instead, the series was put on wheels, equipped with a tracking GPS so people would know where it was, and broadcast on Facebook Live. Residents enjoyed high-energy performances from the comfort of lawn chairs in their own yards or in designated social-distancing bubbles.

Kicking Horse Culture is the outward identity of the Golden District Arts Council. Incorporated in 1970, it hosts about 50 activities a year, including concerts, films, a winter festival and more. It also runs the Art Gallery of Golden, which displays work by hundreds of Basin artists and artisans and draws over 12,000 visitors annually.

With its facilities temporarily shut and its spring/summer events cancelled, Kicking Horse Culture immediately felt the effects of the pandemic. But it could breathe easier with financial support from the Trust’s COVID-19 funding, which helped 36 arts, culture and heritage organizations in the region cover operational expenses, adapt their venues and alter their programming.

With this support, the organization turned its attention to reinventing Summer Kicks. Compliant with COVID-19 safety protocols, the program toured for 10 Wednesdays from June 17 onwards. The live music series helped deliver a sense of normalcy during a peculiar time and provided a connection between all residents—even those self-isolating.

“We’d be driving down the street and I’d see a curtain move; there would be a husband and wife in their 80s, standing in their living room looking out the window and waving at us as we drove by,” describes Usher. “That touched me. It was no longer about how big the crowd was, but rather who we were able to reach.”

Also following safety protocols, Kicking Horse Culture opened its gallery in July, and movable seating in its main indoor venue makes spacing requirements easily achievable. As for a winter/spring music series, it’ll be keeping the lineup largely regional, with intimate shows delivered to no more than 50 patrons.

“We have to be responsive, open to change, and adaptive to meet the standards as they roll out,” says Usher.

For now, Ricky Diamonds serenades the socially distanced with a repertoire of sounds from the 40s through 60s, allowing listeners to forget for a moment that life has dramatically changed.

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