Tuesday, January 18, 2022

What’s Next? 2022 Predictions for the Hamilton Arts Community

As we come to the conclusion of our second pandemic year, we express our appreciation for our city’s artists and arts organizations who continue to survive and thrive in these extraordinary circumstances. Many have been forced to find new ways of gathering, sharing and staging their work. 

At Beyond James, it is our privilege to be able to build discussion and discourse around the evolution of these artists, organizations and their respective works. For creators, the ability to create is a gift; at the same time, the importance of participating and attending the arts (virtual or in person) to well-being and mental health have become increasingly clear to us and to Hamilton. 

As we look back on what 2021 has brought the Hamilton arts sector, here’s a prediction of what might be some major trends for the year ahead. 

Keeping It Simple (and Local)

It’s hard to predict how travel plans may change, or how other jurisdictions may handle the pandemic. Government announcements have often meant that artists and organizations are required to make changes with less than 24-hours notice. It’s much easier to have a guest artist or cast that is primarily from the local area instead, and a show that can scale up- or down- as conditions allow. The next year will likely see an increase of local artists and smaller casts taking center stage in places where a larger production would be the norm. Don’t expect the bells and whistles quite yet- instead, expect shows that find a beauty in their storytelling and simplicity, rather than production values. 

A New Season

In the summer of 2021, performances flourished- generally outside- as organizations adapted their programming to accommodate more flexible outdoor regulations. As predicted, as the weather got colder, regulations changed and provided less flexibility. As the Omicron variant spreads, there is an awareness that COVID-19 could become endemic and reshape our lives and expectations in perpetuity. It’s possible that these changes could drive a shift as to when and how companies announce, program and perform their seasons. Typically, many companies announce their season in the spring and perform in the fall and winter, with summers off for players to participate in festivals. However, if driven by the patterns of the virus, a dramatic shift could occur with activity accelerating when viral transmission is low, and decreasing when the opposite occurs.

Hybrid Performances Continue to Evolve

If 2021 was the year in which hybrid experiences- performances that could be enjoyed either at home or in-person- emerged, then 2022 will be the year in which the experience comes into its own. At the current time, digital exhaustion is real, and online performances are seeing an incredible drop in demand. However, in 2022, expect hybrid performances to shift away from simply capturing the audio and video of what one might see if present in the performance space. Instead, 2022 will bring enhancements to make the at-home experience truly unique and as memorable as being at an in-person experience. This could involve integrated special effects, the incorporation of additional virtual elements or virtual reality; but whatever it is, expect the at-home option to become a unique experience of its own.

It’s a Long Road to Recovery

At the start of 2021, organizations and businesses in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector were found to be the most vulnerable in a study by TD Bank. By the end of 2021, this category fell second to the food and accommodation industry. This vulnerability is felt not just within arts organizations, but by audiences as well. A November 2021 survey of global audiences noted that “demand is diminished, and will continue to be diminished for many months,” with speculation that sales projections should be lowered for at least another year- but likely two. This concern of this impact is felt by all, with a Canadian August 2021 survey, in which 70% of pre-pandemic arts attendees indicated that they were at least somewhat concerned “about the survival of arts/cultural organizations.”

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