One year ago this week, D.C. shut down. At first it was voluntary; within the space of days, it was mandatory. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In the minds of most people, coronavirus went from being an ambient threat to a clear and present danger. Music venues, museums, movie theaters, and performing arts spaces shut down for the safety of the public. While we hoped closures would only last a matter of weeks, or maybe months, there were no guarantees that the organizations that had to cancel their in-person events could survive the financial hit. Some didn’t. There are legitimate reasons to be optimistic about 2021, tempered by the fact that emotionally, physically, and financially, we’ve got a long road back to “normal.” We’ll keep reporting on that road.
Our State of the Arts guides, published in the spring and fall, usually list film, music, comedy, museum, books, dance, and performance events scheduled for that season, with a host of recommendations from our critics to help you plan your outings. Our last one was published in February 2020, and almost nothing included in it came to pass. Though many organizations are now offering a slate of robust programming, both virtually and in person, and we’re building our online events calendar back out, a typical guide isn’t possible right now.
Instead, we’ve taken a different approach. The six stories in our cover package all check in on a specific segment of D.C.’s art scene, one year after the first lockdown. Inside, you’ll learn how comedy shows popped up in alleys and backyards, how an all-volunteer small press published—and sold—an anthology remotely, and how a performance artist is adapting his practice now that he can’t capture the attention of a crowd. We also check in on an unconventional music venue and arts space, how local theaters are engaging filmgoers, and how one group took art installations mobile and outdoors. Together, they speak to how the industry as a whole has handled the pandemic, and to how it’s recovering. — Emma Sarappo