Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Local Artists Keep Going During Pandemic

Live streaming, online classes allow artists to keep working during the shutdown.

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Signature Dance Company instructor Kimi Evelyn teaches a virtual dance class via Facebook Live. Photo provided by Signature Dance Company/NNS.

Signature Dance Company instructor Kimi Evelyn teaches a virtual dance class via Facebook Live. Photo provided by Signature Dance Company/NNS.

Some Milwaukee artists who have lost studio space and canceled public appearances because of the COVID-19 pandemic are discovering there’s no place like home when it comes to art.

Meet four people who are going the virtual distance to stay connected with our community.

‘A great way to get up’

Signature Dance Company closed its studios, but its dance lessons haven’t stopped.

Signature Dance has traded in-person lessons for livestreaming on Facebook – not only to get people at home to move but also to continue training its dancers.

The dance company livestreams dance lessons at noon Monday through Saturday, with a different instructor teaching in remote locations.

“The online classes definitely have opened up Signature to a broader base of people because every time we have different teachers presenting, their friends on social media tune in, and it gives people the opportunity to get to know us virtually,” artistic director Jayme Montgomery said.

“It is a great way to get up, to move, to get your blood flowing, just to stay healthy because when you’re at home there may be a tendency to snack more or eat unhealthy snacks.”

Joshua Adam Harwell, also known as DJ Adamocity, livestreams a DJ set during quarantine. Photo provided by Joshua Adam Harwell/NNS.

Joshua Adam Harwell, also known as DJ Adamocity, livestreams a DJ set during quarantine. Photo provided by Joshua Adam Harwell/NNS.

‘A perfect opportunity’

Livestreaming has allowed artists to continue perfecting their craft, even when venues are closed and booked events are canceled. Joshua Adam Harwell, known as DJ Adamocity, has turned to social media after his gigs were canceled and is using this time to sharpen his skills.

“The reason that I am in entertainment and the arts is to make people feel good through my expression of music, especially during times like this,” Harwell said. “This is a perfect opportunity to get back to the roots of why I love doing music in the first place. I know people can use that more now than ever.”

Harwell uses a spare room in his house and transforms the space with his DJ gear to livestream at 7:30 Friday nights on his Facebook and Instagram accounts. His 30-minute to 45-minute sets consist of some of his personal favorites, he said.

Performing at events can sometimes confine artists to certain formats, so Harwell is using this free time to play the music he wants to hear.

“This opportunity to be free and play what we want and how we want, and the people who tune in know what they are coming for . . . they get to enjoy us playing what we want to play,” Harwell said. “It’s a good feeling. Obviously, it’s bittersweet because the reason that we perform is to feed off the energy from the crowd and audience.”

‘Give your mind a stroll’

Performing, teaching and talking in front of large groups of people form the livelihood of Milwaukee Poet Laureate Dasha Kelly Hamilton. Now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of her calendar is cleared for the next few months. Yet her work doesn’t stop — especially since April is poetry month.

Dasha Kelly Hamilton announces her Poemalogues series during a livestream. (Photo provided by Dasha Kelly Hamilton/NNS.

Dasha Kelly Hamilton announces her Poemalogues series during a livestream. (Photo provided by Dasha Kelly Hamilton/NNS.

“My platform as poet laureate is to present these weekly ‘poemalogues’ and these would be a conversation of body, freedom, power and place,” Kelly Hamilton said. “I’ll invite two folks to chat with me live about their stories and the poems they found.”

Her Poemalogues series will be taking place on each Wednesday in April from 4:30-5:15 p.m.

Kelly Hamilton will also be teaching a free humanities course on The Retreat Facebook page called “I, the Revolution,” each Wednesday in April from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“It’s a chance to give your mind a stroll. Fresh air to your ideas and conversations. Take the writing prompts with you, for later.”

It allows us time to relax’

During a time of uncertainty, writing and creative thinking can be a productive distraction for some, especially Katie Avila Loughmiller at Heard Space, which is taking its write-in sessions virtual.

Members of Heard Space gather together every other Tuesday via Zoom in sessions that are open for anyone who wants a space to write. A prompt is given, and all participants are allowed 20 minutes to write and later share their story with the group. After its first virtual write-in session, Heard Space knew it needed to continue doing the sessions, Avila Loughmiller said.

Heard Space goes virtual for its write-in sessions with members and others who want a space to write, including Katie Avila Loughmiller (top, center/NNS.). Photo provided by Heard Space

Heard Space goes virtual for its write-in sessions with members and others who want a space to write, including Katie Avila Loughmiller (top, center/NNS.). Photo provided by Heard Space

“I, myself, deal with a lot of anxiety and I think this is an anxiety-producing time. Even from our first write-in sessions, it felt so great, and it allows us to relax for a moment,” Avila Loughmiller said. “It felt like an amazing place to direct all that energy and to also feel connected even though we couldn’t be in the same room, and to share your writing is super vulnerable.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

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