Coronavirus scare hits home on NJ Arts beat

An image from the website of The Fest for Beatles Fans.

Today I wrote two posts about big music festivals that are scheduled for New Jersey this year — The Sea.Hear.Now festival in Asbury Park and the XPoNential Music Festival in Camden — and one about King Crimson putting tickets on sale for a show at the State Theatre in New Brunswick. A pretty normal Monday for me, except for the coincidence of New Jersey’s two biggest music festivals announcing their lineups on the same day.

But then there was a fourth item. The Fest for Beatles Fans — a huge, annual Beatles convention, scheduled for Jersey City in late March — announced that it is postponing because of the coronavirus threat. And then later came the news that Pearl Jam, which is headlining Sea.Hear.Now, is canceling its spring tour (though Sea.Hear.Now, which takes place in September, is still on.). Also today, Gov. Murphy declared a state of emergency.

I have to admit, it shook me up.

I can’t say I didn’t see it coming. As I’ve watched the coronavirus story developing, I knew this was probably going to happen, sooner or later, this year.

But it’s still a first step towards something I can hardly think about without shuddering. What comes next? And when does it stop? How could anyone possibly be thinking about anything else tonight, or tomorrow, or … we still could be wrestling with this months or even years from now.

As an arts journalist, my life is based around going out to cultural events. I’ve gone to several, every week, for virtually my entire adult life. The website I’ve created, NJArts.net, is built around the world of going out and seeing concerts and plays and art exhibitions in person.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but going to a concert or play feels as natural to me as breathing. It’s hard to imagine not being able to do it for weeks or months on end.

Can NJArts.net survive an extended period of time when large gatherings are banned? I don’t know. And how is it going to affect all the musicians and actors and behind-the-scenes arts people that I know? All our lives could be turned upside down.

And all that, of course, is really just a secondary concern. Many people, all over the world, have died already. Many more will.

The virus has already disrupted school schedules, and travel plans, and countless other things. You can feel the panic starting to set in.

What happens next? I have no idea. I’m sure no one else can really say, either.

And so, tomorrow, I’ll write more about shows coming up in New Jersey. I hope there will be no more cancellations immediately. But they’re coming, I’m sure. Given all that we know, how could they not?

My vision for NJArts.net is that it’s a place where anything of importance to the New Jersey arts scene is discussed. I hardly know what to say about the coronavirus threat, and what it means to all of us. Yet I felt compelled to write something, since it’s really the biggest issue on the scene right now, and will only, I suspect, get bigger.

Please, feel free to share your thoughts about this in the comments section, below.

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One thought on “Coronavirus scare hits home on NJ Arts beat

  1. Thank you for being candid about this. As a visual artist, I’m trying to have frank conversations with my associates about what will be feasible (for exhibition openings and other expectations) in the short term. It comes down to the fact that we are not prepared for this as a nation. We just aren’t. News coming out of Italy right now is grim. A robust, well funded federal science and health research community would have been smart – but it was decimated. Generations of institutional knowledge has been supplanted by cultish anti-science madness from a weak leader who currently sits in the White House.

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