MV City Recreation Needs the Arts
By MATT STARR
Mayor, City of Mount Vernon
MOUNT VERNON - Finding fun things to do can be difficult these days. For my MTVarts family, we all know the joy of being on stage, behind the scenes on the set, playing for a packed house (or even a small house), and telling stories through performances. The theater and other live performances offer an escape from reality. Heck, even rehearsals are fun. This escape from reality is precisely what our community needs, and storytelling through performances, song, poetry, and visual arts are just what the doctor ordered.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has necessitated restrictions and has certainly forced all of us to rethink how we live our lives and conduct business. For the City of Mount Vernon, we are adapting to many things and moving on some initiatives much sooner than planned which includes technology-based solutions to our operations. Still, we need to see each other in a social context which is where our traditional recreational programming service delivery has transformed into something new, exciting, and larger than this city has seen.
For decades, our recreation department organized summer softball, baseball, soccer, tennis, and swimming very well, but when those programs became difficult to
administer, we began looking to the arts and entertainment community (and those offering lifelong fitness programs) for leadership. Summer in the City was born
involving several business partners and private citizens. Buckminster Fuller once wrote, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Social distancing, limiting crowd sizes, and maintaining infection control measures make it difficult to do the work both of our recreation programs and the theater - or does it have to be difficult?
As the summer continues to unfold, we see program opportunities each week multiply including rock painting, music on the Kokosing Gap Trail, early morning bike rides, and musical performances planned at several of our parks - each one meeting the requirements of social distancing outdoors. MTVarts is poised to fill a new need for the community through entertainment and art. I hope that MTVarts’ “show people” show people how to have fun. Who knows? Perhaps this summer will provide a new audience, new volunteers, new actors, and new crew members for the MTVarts family.
This forced sabbatical can get us back to our roots of why we are called to theater in the first place. I’ve even dusted off my guitar and plan to play and sing with friends from our Senior Center when we reopen (rehearsals are underway). The artist has an enormous responsibility. Today’s pandemic is a reminder of that. Let’s embrace the Summer in the City with renewed enthusiasm and a chance to connect with audience members one-on-one in a new setting whether it be at the
Memorial Theater, Warehouse 14, at the new Riverview Park, in a pavilion, or on Public Square. The simplicity of song, poetry, painting, dance, or other storytelling offers escape, hope, and a zest for living. Let’s have some fun.