Rochester Artists and Comedians Forced to Adapt During COVID-19 Crisis


(WXIR-Rochester) People across Rochester are trying to adjust to life on COVID-19 lockdown. With the temporary closure of bars and performance venues, many performers have been scrambling.

Musician Kijana Crues

Local music artist Kijana Crues says she's dealing with uncertainty from having her spring performances be postponed to an unknown later date. 

"Everything's up in the air right now," Crues says. "I really want to try to put down dates and some people are being hopeful in releasing stuff, but we're hearing that it might go all the way into the summer."

Comedian Madelein Smith, who is originally from Rochester but now resides in NYC, had upcoming Rochester shows cancelled. She stressed that shows like these are how many artists make their livelihood.

"I work as a nanny during the day so I still have that job, but a lot of my money comes from doing shows, particularly like road gigs where you go out of town," Smith says.

Smith says her April dates are still on the books, but they're starting to feel more tentative now.

"So it's like a big loss of income and also just a loss of doing something you really love to do," Smith says.

The individual artist is not the only one affected. Rachel De Guzman, co-founder of WOC Art Collaborative, said art collectives feel the impact in a particular way.

WOC Art Co-Founder Rachel De Guzman

"We certainly are not worse off than many other people. We're in it with everybody else, but one of the things that's very challenging about a collaborative, is that collaboration is interaction. And that's the one thing we can't really do, at least in person, now," says De Guzman.

Although COVID-19 has presented many road-blocks, it has not stopped people from coming up with solutions. Some venues have begun live-streaming shows that do not include a live audience but instead offer artists a safe environment to perform to a virtual audience while still being able to make tips. 

Kijana Crues performed this past Saturday at Photo City Improv. "They're booking each individual artist separately from each other, there's no audience. You're up on stage and they're recording it professionally. It's pretty cool," says Crues.

WOC Collaborative is also exploring ways of strengthening virtual connectivity that De Guzman hopes will continue to be useful long after the pandemic passes.

"Anything that we discover or create as far as connectivity through technology, it doesn't go away after the crisis is over. It means we have actually moved forward in 21st century community," De Guzman says.

COVID-19 has put our community to the ultimate test of finding ways to stay connected while practicing social distancing. Artists, musicians, and comedians are affected by the loss of scheduled events and performances in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

However, this has not stopped the local arts scene from coming together to offer their creativity virtually, in hopes of helping people feel less alone at home. And Rochester's performers hope the rest of the community will return the love by supporting them materially.

"If you want to reach out to artists and ask, can I buy an album or a special, that's always helpful too," says Madelein Smith.

While we can't physically interact, it's important to remember we’re all in this together.