In April 2020, A Center for the Arts (AC4TA) kicked off their inaugural virtual concert. Their roster of virtual concerts and performances was launched in response to gathering restrictions put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the announcement of lesser restrictions, AC4TA will continue to operate their concerts on a virtual basis due to financial reasons.
“Even with the ease in restrictions announced yesterday we find the cost of utilities, insurance, cleaning, artist fees, consumables and more are cost prohibitive,” shared AC4TA executive director Michael Burgraff.
Due to social distancing requirements, AC4TA would only be able to accommodate 70 patrons safely, and with an individual performance cost averaging around $15,000 for in-person attendance, each spectator would be required to pay a ticket price of at least $70 after sponsorships and grants just for the center to break even.
“Our patrons are not just a way for us to pay our bills, rather they are our family and friends and we will not bring people back in until we can with confidence assure them they are in a safe, clean environment,” Burgraff added.
AC4TA is in the process of installing a UV system that will neutralize germs in the circulated air, including the coronavirus.
Virtual concerts take place free of charge on AC4TA’s Facebook page. Patrons are welcome to make a donation through the virtual Facebook event at the bottom of the www.fergusarts.org homepage. Donations are utilized to cover the costs of keeping the organization running, but the performers are also paid out of donations. Donations determine what a performer will be paid for their performance, so donations are imperative to keeping performers coming to Fergus Falls.
The next virtual concert is slated for Thursday, Jan. 14 at 7 p.m and features local musicians David Strom and Aimee Nordlund. Strom and Nordlund have worked together on various occasions, most recently a performance at Outstate Brewing Company in Oct. 2020. For this performance, they will be providing background percussion for each other featuring a brand new Conga drum. Strom’s lineup of music covers a variety of material from the ‘40s until today, including Billy Joel, Sam Cooke, Tony Bennett, Jack Johnson and The Doors. Nordlund’s musical offerings include pop, jazz, gospel and a bit of country.
Neither of Thursday’s musicians are strangers to having a virtual presence. Nordlund performed with AC4TA virtually in June 2020 and Strom, a semi-retired pastor, has been doing livestreamed church services as of late. “(I’m) looking to play more once the pandemic eases,” shared Strom, who has been performing since the 1970s and began his relationship with AC4TA back in 1982, playing with pit orchestras, the Civic Orchestra on one occasion and being involved in two CD release shows.
“I’ve played in several local to regional rock bands and I’ve played with the Lakes Area Jazz All Stars,” Strom explained of his background. “I’m currently playing with Motu, an island/variety band.”
Nordlund enjoyed her last virtual performance, sharing “It was a great experience. I love the opportunity we have through this medium to reach a vast audience, both those who live elsewhere and those who are have challenges getting to The Center for various reasons. Many thanks to Michael Burgraff for his imagination, fortitude and skill. He is always a pleasure to create with.” Nordlund joined the Fergus Falls community in 2012 and began her relationship with AC4TA shortly after. “I have acted in, accompanied and directed productions, most recently as one of three Children's Summer Theater directors and as the director of the PB&J Singers, a children's singing group at the Center,” shared Nordlund, who is also a piano teacher for 35 students and part-time minister of music at Grace Lutheran Church in Erhard. “(I) am fortunate to have many opportunities to play and sing in Fergus Falls and the surrounding area.”
Strom and Nordlund’s virtual concert on Thursday will pop up on the AC4TA Facebook page approximately 10 minutes prior to concert start time at 7 p.m.