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Arts community shares its story

What’s it like to be an artist during a pandemic?

That’s the question posed to dancer Donald Isom, lecturer within Ohio State’s Department of Dance, during Art Tells a Story, Let It Tell Yours, a live weekly online show that is a collaboration among Nikki Swift ’05, founder of Nicolettecinemagraphics, and Michael and James Reese ’88 of Reese Brothers Productions.

“Being an artist and a dancer, I can’t do shows. I can’t teach face-to-face workshops. I can’t choreograph projects. I can’t get on the stage and perform and do any work,” Isom tells his interviewer Tom Katzenmeyer, president and CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council. “It’s really been a challenge.”

Isom is far from alone. With art galleries and organizations shut down due to coronavirus, artists have struggled to find venues for their work. Art Tells a Story, Let It Tell Yours was created as a platform to help with those challenges.

Each week, from her studio, Swift produces the live broadcast streams on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The shows pair an interviewer from a local arts organization – such as the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Ohio State University Faculty Club Art Gallery – with a local artist of that particular organization’s choice.

The interviews explore the art being produced and the process behind the work. The artists not only range from the more established to those just starting out. They also highlight a variety of disciplines.

“We’re running the gamut from filmmakers to painters to mosaic artists and singers and songwriters to dancers,” Swift said. “The breadth of this show is opening people up to experiencing and engaging with other art forms.And even if they are familiar with the artist, they’re getting a different look at the artist they know. The engagement is different.”   

The idea came from a show Swift produced for the Arts and College Preparatory Academy (ACPA), in which an artist presented to a class. After watching one of the shows, Michael Reese asked Swift about using that model for Art Tells a Story, Let it Tell Yours. At first, the show aired twice a week. Now it’s on at 4:30 p.m. each Thursday.

“(Reese Brothers Productions’) tagline is Art Tells a Story and we tell our clients all the time, let it tell yours,” Jim Reese said. “So, we thought, why don’t we tell our own story -- our own being the artists of central Ohio -- and allow people in the artists’ community to talk about what they’re doing during this time.”

Reese Brothers Productions pays the artists a $100 stipend and offers the audience a chance at a $25 gift card to a local restaurant for getting a trivia question right.

The show’s growth has been completely organic, with hundreds of views each week across platforms. Artists also have sold work through the shows. Although scheduled only through the summer, Swift and Jim Reese foresee a future beyond that, depending on how it continues to grow and evolve.

“Here in Columbus we take for granted how fortunate we are to have such a diverse and wonderful arts community that is supported by the private sector and the arts groups,” Jim Reese said. “This wouldn’t have been as successful as it is if it weren’t for the support we got from our arts leaders.”

Published: July 10, 2020

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