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The art of the socially distant birthday party – CNN



The 27-year-old living in New York had rented out space and a DJ for herself and 30 friends for brunch at a hip American gastropub in Manhattan’s Tribeca area.
She could already taste the chicken and waffles, along with the mimosas.
The event was scheduled for her 28th birthday on Saturday, April 4th, and marked nine months of her new life in the Big Apple.
But just as it has for nearly every event, the Covid-19 outbreak proved a showstopper.
“This is my first birthday in the city so I’m really upset,” Wohiren said. “It was a difficult transition for me being away from everything I’ve ever known.”
She now plans to take the shindig to a Zoom video chat for her inner circle instead. The party is off, but the alliteration is still on: She said the boozy birthday brunch got a rebrand as a “web wine-down.”
Despite the disappointment, she says she has “many reasons to be grateful.” The job she loves and the new friends she’s made far from her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia will help her weather the coronavirus challenge.
And despite the hardships in trying to protect oneself from a global pandemic, we can all still relish the fact that there is still no shortage of ways to celebrate, as long as you’re willing to get creative.

Get neighbors in on it

Caroline Herring, who lives in Decatur, Georgia, is one example.
She conspired with more than a dozen families living in their neighborhood to give her daughter, Carrie Crespino, a 16th birthday to remember.
Carrie’s birthday was Friday, March 20, and by that time, “School had been out for a week. We knew we couldn’t have any gatherings at all,” Caroline said.
Searching for love in the time of coronavirus
On the morning of Carrie’s birthday, Herring asked her daughter to take a birthday walk with her.
As they ambled along the route, families stood on their porches or in their yards to sing “Happy birthday” in harmony, or to play the tune on everything from guitars and ukeleles to saxophones and trumpets. Some poked their heads out while on business calls to offer a celebratory word. Others greeted Carrie on pogo sticks or shot off fireworks.
Friends draw in chalk on the street to wish Carrie Crespino a happy birthday.Friends draw in chalk on the street to wish Carrie Crespino a happy birthday.
“Everybody got creative maybe because they have space in their life and mind to be creative,” Herring said.
Carrie came away impressed. “It was so gratifying to see how willing everyone was to come on their porch and sing ‘Happy birthday,’ ” she said. “It was humbling to see how many people cared.”
Similarly, in Marietta, Georgia, well-wishers paraded by in cars and trucks, blaring horns and trailing colorful streamers, to wish an 11-year-old boy named Jack Eaton a happy birthday.
And last Wednesday in New York, a family staged a birthday celebration for a newly 95-year-old Kathleen Byrne who stood on her porch smiling and waving while her grandchildren and other family members sang the birthday song to her from across her yard. Each held up a letter placard to spell out “Happy Birthday” across the whole group.

You can go virtual, but still have a theme and purpose

And if a big outdoor parade or scavenger hunt isn’t your style, you could try a virtual theme night. Brian Floyd, a bartender and consultant living in Austin, Texas, wowed his friends this year on his 44th birthday, hosting them on a Facebook Live session in which he spread cheer and educated his friends and viewers on the art of making a fine cocktail.
He said he wasn’t sure exactly how many tuned in but so far about 430 people have viewed the video.
Floyd’s birthday broadcast started off as he explained how to saber a bottle of champagne (to actually open the bottle with a knife, or a sword). Then he made a toast to everyone’s health and demonstrated how to mix a “highbrow” drink called the Queens Park swizzle. He said the cocktail, which he learned of from a New York bartender friend, called for bruised mint, squeezed lime, simple syrup and rum.
And he also showed them how to make a low-brow drink, a “flaming Dr. Pepper,” which starts with amaretto and rum. Then you light it on fire, drop into a pint of lager, and serve it.
On his birthday, Austin bartender Brian Floyd gave his friends a demonstration in his making cocktails and spread some positive vibes in the process. On his birthday, Austin bartender Brian Floyd gave his friends a demonstration in his making cocktails and spread some positive vibes in the process.
“We sang a bawdy drinking song, and I recommended several books I’m reading,” he said. “I played a little piano, wished everyone well, and reminded them that we have a duty to take care of each other.”
Short and sweet — but thoroughly memorable.
“I love hosting people. And I love hosting people on my birthday,” Floyd said. “This was how I could do that this year. Being a good host means putting people at ease and giving them ways to be entertained. So I hope I did that.”

Celebrations continue, but with constraints

We’re all learning to adjust our expectations as a new lifestyle of social distancing sets in, with the specter of illness hovering nearby.
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said that his 11-year-old daughter’s birthday was this past Monday, and she was upset because her party needed to be canceled.
“But we still spent time together as a family,” Gupta said. “We went for a walk outside, and while she didn’t get her party, I reminded her it’s a birthday she’ll never forget.”
The extrovert's guide to social distancingThe extrovert's guide to social distancing
The coronavirus pandemic has brought a form of collective grief, at the rituals and celebrations we’re losing: bachelor parties, weddings, funerals, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, possibly graduations coming soon. But the act of being human doesn’t have to be squelched.
In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, grief expert David Kessler said that it’s important to focus on the things that you actually have control over.
“Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”
Rites of passage can still endure — at physical distance, and often with unusual flair.

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Vancouver Art Gallery launches online Art Connects series – North Shore News



The brave new world that is physical distancing has hit the arts community harder than most, if not all, sectors.

No more tours. No more shows. No more face-to-face interaction, at least in the flesh.

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To that end, the Vancouver Art Gallery is returning some semblance of human connection to the fold with the introduction of its Arts Connect series.

Launching Tuesday, March 31, the new series will focus exclusively on “online gatherings that encourage dialogue and connection during this new age of physical distancing,” according to a news release from the art gallery.

Art has the power to connect individuals, communities and cultures,” reads a press release from the art gallery. “No matter its form, art encourages communication, broadens perspectives, enriches the mind and renews the spirit. During challenging times, art can uplift the community through enriching and culturally meaningful experiences.

The new program is free to join and weekly conversations will be live-streamed on the gallery’s Zoom channel. Upon registering, attendees can submit questions and chat directly with fellow attendees during the live stream.

Art Connects makes its maiden voyage at 1:30 p.m. on March 31, when curators Grant Arnold and Mandy Ginson will preview the exhibition, The Tin Man Was A Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics and Performances of Power.

Presented at a time that coincides with presidential and congressional election campaigns in the United States, The Tin Man Was a Dreamer: Allegories, Poetics and Performances of Power is a subtle response to this historical moment,” notes a news release from the art gallery.

Another session is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on April 3.

A link to register for Tuesday’s online webinar can be found HERE.


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Nova Scotians with cool film jobs part four: Likely's art of creating a believeable world on film –



EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of profiles of some of the creative Nova Scotians working behind-the-scenes in the film and TV industry at home and abroad was begun before the COVID-19 outbreak. We are running it now to highlight the talents of those who will be working to help get the cameras rolling again once things are under control, either with years of experience under their belts, or just getting started in the world of media production.

When Halifax-based film and television art director Matt Likely first heard that director Robert Eggers was considering making his gothic cinematic nightmare The Lighthouse in Nova Scotia, he thought it was too good to be true.

Likely had seen Eggers’ previous feature The Witch, and loved the care taken to make its 17th century New England setting come alive. He was also aware that its production designer

Craig Lathrop was an old friend who’d hired him on three previous projects, including the 2007 thriller Stuck, shot in Likely’s home town of Saint John by the late horror maestro Stuart Gordon.

Then came Lathrop’s phone call in November of 2017.

“He told me a little bit about the project and that they’d be scouting some locations in Nova Scotia,” recalls Likely. “He had all kinds of questions for me, he had never done a show here, so he was asking about local crews and whether there’d be enough people to do a project of this size.”

Lathrop told Likely they were planning to build a 70-foot lighthouse, and were looking for the perfect rugged coastline to place it on. Even with his enthusiastic sales pitch for Nova Scotia film crews, Likely thought it was still a longshot that The Lighthouse would come here, but that soon changed.

“Then Craig and Robert Eggers and some of the producers came in December, and toured some of the locations with Nova Scotia location manager Shaun Clarke,” he says. “He took them to Yarmouth and they looked at Cape Forchu, and they loved it.

“The harshness of it, the vista, all of it.”

In January, Lathrop returned and he and Likely were working on a budget, “trying to figure out a way to build this damned lighthouse.

“It was a combination of all kinds of different elements to build it, but Craig had a good idea in mind when he came to town, he’d been thinking about it for a long time, but he brought me in as the art director and I brought in more of the local crew like Kevin Lewis as the key scenic artist.”

Working on an Academy Award-nominated feature film is exactly the kind of thing Likely dreamed of doing when he had his first major assignment; as a graphic artist on the locally-shot remake of the 1970s figure skating romance Ice Castles in 2001.

He jokes that he didn’t even know how the film industry worked when he first got hired, working his way up from designing signs and building props to designing sets, “coming up honestly through the industry” to eventually becoming an art director.

His role is to help to match filmmakers’ visions for their projects in the sets and other constructions required, usually on a budget and working with locations that often need to be altered or dressed accordingly.

Likely says the most fun thing is to design and build sets, either in a studio or on location, starting from scratch to provide a unique background for a given scene, with a distinctive visual look.

“You’ve got more freedom,” he says of that approach. “There are always budgetary concerns, but at least you’re custom-making something for the script and making all the choices from the ground up.

“You’re choosing the trim for the door, or the type of wallpaper, the colour of the walls or the ceiling height. All of those choices dictate the kind of space you’re going to have.”

The set of The Lighthouse, filmed at Cape Forchu in 2018. Putting together a 70-foot lighthouse for the Academy-Award nominated film was a challenge for art director Matt Likely. – Contributed

Following The Lighthouse, upcoming Halifax-shot projects bearing Likely’s stamp include the cryogenic lab he built for Seth Smith’s horror/sci-fi hybrid Tin Can and the post-apocalyptic streetscapes he sketched out for the miniseries based on Clive Barker’s Books of Blood.

“I’ve been lucky,” he says. “We had problems with the tax credit situation in 2015, and a few of my friends have moved away to work in Toronto and Vancouver. I had just bought a house here in Dartmouth and I wanted to make a go of it here.

“I had been working my way up through the art department, getting to design and art direct some smaller projects, and then I had the great fortune to do production design for Weirdos, for (director) Bruce McDonald, and I was almost pinching myself at the time.”

There was a lot about the Cape Breton-shot Weirdos that attracted Likely, from the fact it would be shot in black and white to the 1970s era it was designed to evoke. Soon after he’d be assigned to a project even more unhinged, the CBC-TV comedy series Cavendish, about supernatural happenings in a small Prince Edward Island town, dreamed up by former members of the Picnicface troupe.

“I felt like once (co-creators Andy Bush and Mark Little) saw what we could do, they were upping the ante each time,” he says of the series that presented a different challenge with each episode.

“Whether it was creating a wax statue of Fred Penner or an edition of the Necronomicon: The Book of the Dead. It was just one thing after another, and I feel so lucky to be able to work with such talented people.”

On and off the set, Likely works hand-in-hand with construction coordinators, scenic artists, set builders and props masters. “The craftspeople I’ve worked with here are incredible,” says the art director who was amazed at how quickly things moved for The Lighthouse once it was a go, and Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson were slated to star as the film’s two combative “wickies.”

“But I was most excited by the thought of what we were going to build, it was all beyond what I had ever managed as far as being an art director goes,” he says.
“It just came together so well. We did it, we had paint drying just before the camera started rolling, it was unbelievable.”

With Tin Can and Books of Blood about to see the light of day, and the Stephen King-inspired mini-series Jerusalem’s Lot waiting to begin production once things return to normal, Likely calls The Lighthouse a game-changer that should continue to build momentum for the film industry. “We needed a win, basically,” he says.

“Even without the Oscar nomination for cinematography, the popularity and the reception of the movie in terms of the reviews and so on were huge for us. We’re always wanting to prove ourselves here, and maybe there isn’t as strong an opinion about the industry here as there would be somewhere more established, in Toronto or Vancouver or the States.

“But for a film like that to come here, which required all these skills and trades to not only deliver what was required but to have it be praised so highly after the fact. That sort of thing is huge, and certainly builds confidence for anyone who wants to come and film here.”


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Short-term relief funding created for Calgary art sector amid COVID-19 pandemic – Global News



The Calgary Arts Development has announced $1.15 million in short-term relief funding for those impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The funding will help provide immediate relief to arts organizations and workers in the city.

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During a virtual town hall meeting last week, Calgary Arts Development’s president and CEO, Patti Pon, announced the funding.

“We know COVID-19 has impacted everybody — individuals and organizations alike,” Pon said during the town hall.

“We see that there’s a spectrum of urgency and need, and we’ll be using this $1.1 million to address those most urgent needs that are being shared with us.”

The organization re-directed money from existing grant envelopes to make this short-term funding possible.

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Pon said the idea was quickly developed following a survey that assessed needs, and severity of the impact COVID-19 has had on the industry so far.

The survey was completed by industry workers and organizations during the week of March 16.

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“We’re using that data to help us understand where that need is right across the spectrum,” she said.

“The funds have been approved and we are going to move ahead as quickly as we can.”

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The funding will be divided two ways: between organizations and individuals, including artists and cultural workers.

Of the $1.15 million, $950,000 will be allocated to supporting organizations.

The remaining $200,000 will go towards helping individuals cover lost revenue and expenses, Pon said.

“For those who are individual arts workers, document your losses. I cannot stress that enough.”

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“That includes the cancelled plane tickets for events that got cancelled and the contracts that you didn’t get fulfilled.”

Coronavirus: Calgary businesses react to new COVID-19 restrictions

Pon said this funding will be used to fulfill urgent needs and help create more stable footing for the arts industry to continue on in the future.

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“The short term funding will be used to bridge until we’re able to solidify a clear picture of that medium and long-term recovery,” she said.

More information on the funding, and how to apply, will be updated through the Calgary Arts Development website this week.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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