Merced has a diverse, bustling and rich arts scene. And not only downtown on Main Street, but also at Merced College, the UC Campus, high school auditoriums and stages, and more. The phrase that you might have heard, “There is nothing to do here,” is not true.
But then the pandemic hit a year ago. Rehearsals stopped, shows had to be canceled, ticket money returned, gears changed.
Yet, Merced arts organizations are still here, plan, teach, and create in different ways, on Zoom, on YouTube and other platforms.
Five of these Merced non-profit arts organizations celebrate a year of resilience. One year after the pandemic shut down live events, these organizations are still here, serving our community and looking forward to a not-too-distant brighter future.
Playhouse Merced, Merced Shakespearefest, Merced Symphony, Merced Multicultural Arts Center (MAC), and the Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre are joining their creative forces for one big, upcoming event, “Heart for the Art.”
A streaming event, a combination of scenes, musical pieces, filmed episodes, together with hosts from each of the organizations, will delight, inform, and entertain you.
Join us on Saturday, March 27, at 7 p.m., for the premiere of this special event. You can access the event on your device; the viewing link is http://bit.ly/MercedHeartForArt (or you can go to any of the organizations’ websites). Whereas this on-line event is free, a donation of $ 5 or more can be made at the link https://bit.ly/HeartForArtGive. Every amount is gratefully received and appreciated and shared amongst the organizations. After the 27th the event is available for one more week, so even if you are busy now you still have some more time to enjoy.
Here’s a closer look at five arts organization and what they individually have planned for 2021:
- Playhouse Merced Community Theatre has enriched the fabric of the Central Valley for over a quarter century. In addition to producing a yearly average of a dozen live plays, musicals, and theatrical events, the Playhouse has also been the home of our community’s most comprehensive theatrical arts education program for youth — The Young Artists Conservatory. During the pandemic shutdown this past year the Playhouse has continued to connect with and expand its audience through their YouTube channel with a fall series of digital shows. On April 1, the Playhouse will announce a new season of shows and special events for the 2021-2022 season. The theme for the season and beyond is “The Story Is Us….” because Playhouse Merced is where we, this community, create our theatrical art to tell our stories.
- Merced Shakespearefest, the local Shakespeare festival, is a grassroots community theater, embracing the rich diversity of our town. Merced Shakes is now in its 20th season; it has staged over 30 full plays by William Shakespeare, over 20 for FREE at the MOAT in Applegate Park! Originally there was only a play in summer, but since 2016 there are 3 plays each season. Merced Shakes does not own or rent a building, but true to Shakespeare’s quote: “All the world’s a stage…” it will find stages in and around Merced, and now even on YouTube. The first bilingual production, Richard/Ricardo II, was planned for the stage, but was filmed in web episodes last June and became successful on-line. Another bilingual film is planned for May 2021, Don Quixote, after the famous novel by Cervantes, a contemporary of the Bard. However, live theatre is what Shakespeare was about, and his theater survived the closing due to the plague over 400 years ago – may our theater be as resilient!
- The Merced Symphony is now in its 63rd season. Three annual concerts are well known and attended. Especially the annual children’s concert, where 4th grade students are introduced to classical music, is very popular. In 2014 a new music director brought youthful vitality to the Merced Symphony Association. Maestro Ming Luke is a versatile conductor who has excited audiences in Merced and around the world with energy, creativity and charisma. All concerts of this last season were virtual events that still can be seen on YouTube.
- The Multicultural Arts Center, lovingly known as the MAC, has been the arts and cultural hub of Merced since its opening in 1997. Managed by the Merced County Arts Council, the MAC is home to the Enrichment Center, a day program for artists with disabilities; the Arbor Gallery, a co-op of local artists; the Merced Academy of Dance; the Bear Creek Ukulele Society, the Phoenix Creative Collective; LGBTQ+ groups; local artists; and so much more. Since March 13, 2020, the MAC has had to shut its doors. During the shut down, the MAC’s programming has mostly gone virtual with live-streaming events and educational classes on Facebook and YouTube. The MAC board, staff, and volunteers can’t wait to welcome the community back in again!
- The Merced Theatre first opened in 1931 and has seen hundreds of community events and live performances on its stage. Re-opened in 2012 as The Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre, it is operated by the Merced Theatre Foundation with a mission to make performing arts readily available for the enrichment of our culturally diverse population. We believe the arts are a catalyst for educational and economic success for a community and with that in mind, have hosted a wide variety of events, from concerts and comedy nights to school educational events and local arts groups’ performances. Last March, Merced Theatre temporarily closed its doors to the public. Since then it has hosted virtual streaming events and served as a film set. The board and staff have also been working hard to reschedule postponed events and line up new performances for next season. We are so excited to see everyone again!
A recent study analyzed the situation of nonprofits during the pandemic. A worst-case scenario shows 38 percent of them closing. Among the most vulnerable non-profits are those involved in the arts and entertainment, which depend on ticket sales for most of their revenue. So far it does not look like any of the mentioned local groups are giving up.
Artists love their work, they are passionate about it. They are planning their next projects to inspire and entertain their communities and their audiences. Supporters in Merced have been kind and generous, and they are asked now to continue and step up their support, as the show must to go on!
Don’t miss the Heart For Art show on March 27!