/During these strange coronavirus times, Mississippians find virtual ways to find connection and community

During these strange coronavirus times, Mississippians find virtual ways to find connection and community

Jeff Good, a restaurant owner, reminded people in line who had drifted closer to each other to chat. He noted that a few people had used his “nice gloves”. The COVID-19 pandemic shook culture and community around the world, but there were still resilient spirits in Mississippi, even on a midday in a Mississippi garage lot. Amile Wilson, a neighborhood favorite, said that she “hangs out at Broad Street every single day.” “Well, maybe not ….” Social ditancing, closed business and self-quarantines have made Mississippians less gregarious and deprived of their usual places to meet and visit. Virtual happy hours have replaced real ones. Online performances were the new home for performers. Gift cards were encouraged by small businesses. The solution was found through creativity. Some restaurants have closed down; others use take-out, curbside delivery or contactless services to get their food. Those Broad Street breads? You can find them at Corner Market locations right now. General manager Kendall Anderson stated that Babalu has been receiving steady business from curbside since the popular restaurant closed for dine-in just as spring arrived. The Fondren neighborhood, which is normally bustling, has become “kind of a ghost town” at nights. But, people have been amazing in coming out. “Any sales we can make is helping us to stay alive during this crisis.” They added wine to go (uncorked, stock bottle, 21+) as an option for food orders. “Every dollar helps right this moment.” Downtown Jackson is slow too. But Steve’s Downtown Deli & Bakery is testing out subscription-based packaged pickup. This includes quiche, soup and focaccia. Owner Steve Long hopes to expand the selections as it becomes popular. “We’re going to call it CO-VIDDLES.” Some neighborhoods offered extra incentive — a Bear Hunt with bear-sized windows and teddy bears ready for counting. Kristen Crawford shared her idea on nextdoor.com after hearing it from friends in Delta. It’s a lovely nod to Mississippi culture, and the origins of the teddy bear in Theodore Roosevelt’s 1902 bear hunt in Mississippi. Jill Morgan was one of those who responded. She found it a great way to keep people active and connected. Anabel Morgan, her daughter, took her largest bear from hibernation, and placed him in the window. Holt Collier-style, she lined up the quarry for hunters. Two major concerts of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra’s diamond anniversary season had to be cancelled by the orchestra. Marta Szlubowska, MSO violinist and concertmaster, turned the anticlimax into an opportunity with a series on Facebook called “Music Moments with Marta”. “I wanted to share something beautiful. Positive thinking and music are both good for you. Szlubowska said, “It’s also good for me,” and she shared new and old recordings, stories, and engaged with her audience online. I didn’t expect to have this level of interaction with people. It’s very nice. It opens up a conversation on music, sound, emotions, and what music means to you. Music is a common language, and we cannot let it die even in this crisis.” She hopes that more musicians will take up the idea. Singer/actor/musician Andrew Fehrenbacher, a New Stage Theatre veteran from “Beauty and the Beast,” “Bright Star” and more, loves to perform live, but social media video posts of it? Outside his comfort zone. He is working to overcome that. His father, sister-in law and two uncles work in healthcare. “I’m not well equipped to do that, but I thought maybe my small contribution (#quarantunes) with Mary Catherine, trying to play a fun tune, might make people smile, when there’s not much to smile about, during quarantine.” They recently returned to Mississippi from New York City. He said that they are trying to keep the times upbeat, nostalgic or encouraging, and that the posts on Facebook and Instagram of the couple performing “Lean On Me,” “You’ve got a friend in Me” and other songs. New Stage Theatre’s education division started Online Creativity Challenges in order to keep in touch with students. The theater is also filming three of its tour shows as well as a workshop that will serve as an educational resource. Francine Thomas Reynolds, artistic directors, hopes to obtain professional Zoom services for her theater. She said that micro-commissioning, such as five-minute monologues from actors, is possible. However, it all depends on how long the gathering size restrictions are maintained. The Mississippi Museum of Art’s permanent collection, which includes 3,300 images, is now digitized and searchable. However, the galleries are currently closed. It connects viewers to a different angle or deeper look at artworks displayed. The app also serves as a window into exhibitions that are not available in person. The museum’s education team has taken control of the museum’s social media and offers daily digital education resources to families and parents since the COVID-19 pandemic. Adrienne Chadwick, curator, interpretation, stated that the museum had more tours booked for April before the outbreak (many to see the delayed opening of Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Their Times) than it did during the entire 2018-19 school year. “Now, we felt the need to continue engaging these teachers, schools, and families as much we can.” “I still haven’t figured it out. “Aren’t we all?” asked Jessie Partridge, Maidenhair Floral owner/designer. In an effort to help a friend who was a florist and a bride from the coast, she purchased some wholesale flowers. It was too late to cancel. It was also a way to bring joy to her community who, in turn, bought flowers at a lower cost. Next, Partridge thought, “Let’s make it interactive.” Mae, her daughter, separated the flowers and took orders. They delivered the flowers to their front porches using sanitized vase. Partridge did a Facebook Live workshop where she led 25-30 people (and others) through the process of prepping, designing, and arranging flowers. It was fun to see other people doing it. Partridge stated that it had a “group, kind of community” feel. As people shared photos of their arrangements, she answered questions and offered more. Partridge said, “We’re just trying to work with what we have.” “That’s the way of today right now.” This is also true for the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs. It’s a popular attraction that has to be kept away from visitors. ART+, its digital initiative, aims to make the collection and art experiences of the museum more accessible. Anderson’s artworks are linked to various fields of study through the push, which includes art, history and science. It also provides lesson plans. “ART+ Early Education,” an animated series featuring a reading from “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” by Ellen Douglas, illustrated by Anderson, is one of the first. “Pelicans & Conservation” focuses on environmental science. Julian Rankin (WAMA executive director) stated that the WAMA is moving towards more online person-to person education. This could be tour experiences, or Tony DiFatta, an education director. He also plans to create a digital academy for art-making and instruction. It’s about pivoting in a situation that is completely unknown. Artists excel at this.”