Making a Live Event Virtual: Masks 2020 Artist 2 Artist Concert


I've hosted the Artist 2 Artist concert series for over seven years now. The idea for this series happened when I participated in the former Arts Incubator of the Rockies Evolve program. It wasn't the project I ended up doing for the program, but after the program ended it was the project that actually survived. For the first several years the series was held in various galleries, cafes and creative spaces around Northern Colorado. Despite my best efforts the series never quite achieved the goal I had set for it of expanding the audience for both art and music by presenting both in a setting and manner where each enhanced the other. The few people who did attend really got it. We had some great experiences but I was starting to think that it had run its course.

In 2018 that all changed when Elizabeth Morisette from Museum of Art Fort Collins reached out and asked me if I would consider hosting the series at the museum. While I was skeptical that it would be successful I still agreed to give it one last shot. With the help and support of the museum the series has become much more successful and we've been able to reach a growing number of people with each show. We pair a local musical performer of group with the current exhibit and I interview them in a way to help the audience have a much more revealing and meaningful experience of both the art and the music. 

In 2020 we were excited to learn that Artist 2 Artist received a grant from Bohemian Foundation to increase the guarantee we could pay musicians and to support more marketing efforts to expand the reach of the shows. Then Covid-19 came along. Every year the museum hosts a show called Masks. The Masks show features the work of over 200 local artists who are given blank ceramic mask forms to unleash their creativity upon. The quality and variety of masks is truly remarkable. You'll never see two masks that are exactly alike or that even share the same concept.

The week that this year's Masks show was scheduled to be hung, the museum had to be closed due to the stay at home orders that affected everyone. We had already scheduled the Artist 2 Artist show for the Masks Exhibition on April 23rd, but that obviously had to be canceled. Since the Masks show is also the largest fundraiser of the year for the museum I was reluctant to just cancel the concert outright and we started looking at different options to let the show go on. 

The museum had decided to move the Masks auction online and I had talked with our scheduled performer to see if he was willing to do something similar. We originally talked about trying to do a live event on Zoom, but managing all the technical angles proved to be too challenging. So I suggested that we could make the event into a pre-recorded concert video in which I could interview the featured artists and our musician, Antonio Lopez, and we could feature videos of Antonio's songs in between interviews. Same format as our live shows but on video. We had a plan.

Antonio did an exceptional job recording his songs in his home music room. They looked and sounded amazing. We also had images of all of the masks from the show that we could include in the concert video. My friend, author Teresa Funke who is one of the Masks show sponsors also contributed a couple of readings from her latest book, Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life. And we had wonderful Zoom interviews with eight of the show's artists: Bob Coonts, Alison Dickson, Danny Feig-Sandoval, Yasmine Haldeman, Jill P. Mott, Sabina Newton, Lenina Olivas, and Mark Rosoff. When all was said and done I had about 3 hours of raw material to work with.

All of this had to be edited and condensed into a 90 minute time frame, the usual length of our live shows so the editing began. I've never done a full length video project of any kind except for cobbling together recent church services. I've done a ton of short videos but the technological limitations of my computers make editing a long form video next to impossible. Sometimes even short videos cause screen freezes and crashes. The only way that I could successfully edit this project was to complete each short segment of the video separately. So every interview, song, intro, title sequence, and end credits had to be edited as a free standing video. 

This was the biggest difference between hosting the live show and moving it into video. For live shows my time commitment is usually no more than a few hours. There's a little bit of preliminary research, setting up the sound system and chairs, and then hosting the show with a little bit of tear down time afterwards. For the video version of the show there was about 20 hours of coordinating and interviewing, and 40 hours of editing. Once all the individual segments were edited and rendered, making the finished full length video didn't take too long and my technical limitations weren't a concern at all. I was able to complete the final edit and rendering within about an hour. After that I was also able to take excerpts to make marketing pieces.

This was a great learning experience for me and it may have to be repeated as no one knows for sure when public gatherings will be able to happen again. I heard this morning that musical gatherings in which people will be singing or playing wind instruments may be discouraged for at least a year because those activities appear to be higher risk for spreading the virus. So if the museum is able to reopen we may still need to present concerts in alternative ways. While more time consuming it's good to know that the video option is a viable one.

If you'd like to enjoy an entertaining 90 minutes, please watch the video above. And remember that the Masks auction will be live until June 28th at 9PM Mountain Time. Go, check out all the masks and make a bid on the ones you love. The auction is here: