By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4)– Artists looking to share their work and gain support from the community are teaming up to create a livestream network of local content in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Performances and shows providing income stopped in recent weeks because of concerns around coronavirus, so “We Are Denver” will launch a way to showcase their talent and collect donations.

(credit: CBS)

“The pandemic hit and that has kind of shut everything down,” said Kayla Marque, a singer-songwriter in Denver. “For me personally, it was an abrupt change and had to make a very fast adjustment. All of my shows are cancelled.”

She performed one of her songs Tuesday outside the Crossroads Denver Theater to bring awareness to the livestream network launching April 1. She spoke to CBS4 about the significance in that neighborhood and throughout the city, a community worth highlighting online.

“Denver has always had a very rich art culture. We are standing in Five Points, this is known as the Harlem of the West,” she said. “There’s a lot of history here, so we’ve always had this art scene, I think it was a little more underground. As we’ve grown, it has grown and kind of surfaced a bit.”

Marque says her income comes from performances and leading workshops with youth. The earliest she could be back on stage is this fall. She says the struggle of artists like her working full-time in this profession is similar to other industries like hospitality and beauty services.

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“We may not have regular jobs but we have regular bills,” she said. “We’re all facing the same problem right now.”

(credit: Ryan Foo)

We Are Denver is an artist collective that has run a recording studio and production work, it also creates public art installations like the Empathy Museum. Ryan Foo is the executive director of the organization and says the last four months were a strong time for artists. He saw people making money and covering their expenses just from working in their creative fields. COVID-19 changed that and now artists will likely be out of work for months.

“I think a lot of people can’t make ends meet,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed and really in love with our artistic community for how we’ve been taking care of each other.”

Entertainers at the highest levels who may have toured around the globe have turned to livestreaming to keep their content relevant and accessible. It can also be a source for income as some have asked for donations during this difficult time for the community. He hopes the platform launching for Denver artists will have a similar impact. Some have suggested the money fans would spend on tickets to a show could be turned into a donation if they view material online.

(credit: CBS)

“Everyone who’s an artist right now that’s stuck at home figures they might as well stream their stuff to the internet,” Foo said.

Programming could reach up to 16 hours each day with a loop of material in between. The content will range from performances from artists like Marque to how-to videos from experts. You could watch a drawing in time-lapse or poetry from a local writer made into a video. The artist feed will limit each to 30 minutes and continue to accept submissions. Foo hopes it will go strong for three months and longer if needed. He also wants the site to introduce the talent of Denver to a global audience.

“We want people to see how tight Denver is. It’s not just about Denver supporting Denver. We really want that. But I would also like to centralize how cool we are,” he said. “To just showcase to the world that this is what the fabric of the arts world in Denver feels like.”

Foo says that people are so dependent on creatives for the content they are enjoying while asked to stay home. He wants to see people of that same community getting the help they need locally. A thought that Marque echoes pointing out that the money they get from donations will be used for essentials like gas and groceries.

“This is about our health and safety and our security and I think the best thing that we can do is figure out ways to support one another,” she said.

LINKS: We Are Denver | Kayla Marque

Shawn Chitnis

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