Sam Odom

To live in Lakeland is to gather throughout the city and appreciate all things local, especially the artistic aspirations of those in the community. Weeks of hard work and preparation turned to nothing for many, and deferred performances and events are felt across the city of Lakeland. Despite these setbacks, Lakeland’s local artists are taking time for themselves and searching for ways to continue their disciplines remotely.

One such artist is musician Matthew Lowry, a solo artist who has released his own music, and has performed at local venues like Hillcrest Coffee and Union Hall. Lowry explains that although the timing of the pandemic is difficult, he’s trying to make the most of the situation.

“I’ve only recently gotten back into performing live, so it was tough timing to have the COVID situation arise just as I was releasing music and starting to play out more,” Lowy said. “But I’ve really tried to capitalize on the opportunity that being at home in my music room allows.”

Lowry recently became an Instacart driver, which gives him control over his hours and as a result lets him choose when he works on his music and does live streams. Lowry said that Instagram and Facebook Live are great assets to have during this situation, as they expand his audience.

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Lowry/ajpgphoto. Matthew Lowry performing at the LKLDxLOVE event hosted by The Vanguard Room and Union Hall on Feb. 14.

“And to be honest, I may not have taken advantage of [Instagram/Facebook Live] had this situation not come to pass,” Lowry said.

Lowry’s next live stream is April 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Union Hall.

Live streaming seems to be a popular way for artists to connect with their audiences, as Florida Dance Theatre is utilizing their Instagram to host live-stream dance classes for free.

“It’s not the same but we are happy to see some of our students utilizing the virtual classes. Remember no tuition to take. We are just asking for donations so we can continue paying our bills and faculty,” Florida Dance Theatre posted on Facebook on April 7.

On their Facebook page they also did a “Florida Dance Theatre Dance Challenge” where teachers post a section of one song in separate videos for participants to piece together themselves.

Lakeland Community Theatre is making use of their social media accounts with interactive prompts, and are continuing their “Theatre for Youth” program online as well.

Photo Courtesy of Alan Reynolds/ Lakeland Community Theatre. Lakeland Community Theatre’s production of “Nine to Five the Musical.”

“Our Theatre Community  has been sharing songs and messages via Instagram and Facebook, also pics and such, reminding all of us how important Lakeland’s Civic Theatre is to our community’s cultural health and well-being,” Lakeland Community Theatre’s Artistic Managing Director Alan Reynolds said.

In addition to this position, Reynolds directs, designs, and performs. Currently Reynolds is still fulfilling his role at Lakeland Community Theatre by overseeing staff, artists, and the organization’s present and future. He is also thankful to continue projects remotely as a member of the design team at Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando.

“The Theatre is communal, for the Actors, Musicians, Technicians, Designers and the Audience,” Reynolds said. “Losing that common connection is tough during this crisis.”

Despite these difficulties, Reynolds says that the circumstances bring forth what matters.

Photo Courtesy of Alan Reynolds/ Lakeland Community Theatre. Lakeland Community Theatre’s production of “Matilda the Musical.”

“It really makes us all realize what we value and love,” Reynolds said. “We should never take our artistic outlets and cultural arts community for granted. We all need that communal human connection that the theatre experience offers.”

As for the future, Reynolds says that Lakeland Community Theatre’s future is “so bright I need shades.”

“We will overcome this and be back stronger than ever,” Reynolds said.

Indie Atlantic Films is adapting as well, narrowing their focus to Pre and Post-production.

“We also have found ways to still produce films for our clients by utilizing many different resources while staying safe at home,” Indie Atlantic Films’ Senior Producer Matthew Wiatt said. “We are really thankful to have wonderful clients that we are continuing to work with even during this time of social distancing.”

Indie Atlantic Films and others in the film industry are dealing with shows and movies that are postponed or cancelled.

“I have colleagues that are freelance film crew members that were booked solid for the spring/summer and now they have no jobs booked,” Wiatt said.

Although many productions are on pause, Wiatt says that local creative work is still ongoing, and that Indie Atlantic Films is looking for ways to help creative members from the community.

“So many people are thinking of ways to help one another and also keep putting great art, music, and content out,” Wiatt said.

Wiatt and others at Indie Atlantic Films are taking this break to find distribution for their film “Fly Like a Girl,” as many are home and able to watch more films. During this break, Indie Atlantic Films hopes to expand current and future projects, as well as work with clients.

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Wiatt/Indie Atlantic Films. Production for Indie Atlantic Films’ feature-length documentary film “Fly Like a Girl” in 2018.

“We know it will mean thinking about things differently but that is what the film/ creative world does best,” Wiatt said.

Artists are also able to continue selling their art online, and some can form online Facebook groups or turn to organizations to find a community.

Art Crawl is a local nonprofit organization whose focus is on local artists, music, and food, and they made a Facebook post where they encouraged local artists who are selling their art online to comment. This post has 97 comments of artists with varying styles and mediums such as watercolor, painting, illustration, jewelry, and more.

During a time of necessary isolation it is easy to feel detached from our community, but this situation presents a period of reflection and appreciation. Art gives us a way to connect, and Lakeland’s artists are doing so by continuing their passions virtually.

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