Welcome to Shoreline Arts Alliance's Future Journalists, a blog which is created, designed, edited and managed by our amazing team of high school interns! Stay tuned for new articles every month.
We spoke to Steve Van Ness -- owner and founder of Impact Arts -- last month. He started in 1989, he tells us, doing events at ski resorts in the off season. Before that, he worked for the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs in Boston, and came back later to manage Concerts on the Commons. Eventually, he went on to become one of the founders and original producers of the nationally-known music festival Gathering of the Vibes, and more generally speaking, the go-to person for a range of events. So with a breadth of experience in the industry, Van Ness is no stranger to an unpredictable business environment. Even before the pandemic hit, the rise of large corporations like LiveNation had already shifted the economy of the industry in a huge way, hurting smaller event management businesses in the process.
“So COVID comes along, and I lose a big year... [I had already] planned all kinds of events, and it all went away” said Van Ness. He was working to grow and diversify the reach of Impact Arts Events Group in Connecticut. The rise of COVID-19 had severely hindered these plans.
After hunkering down with his guitar for a month -- he is also an avid songwriter -- Van Ness realized he needed to find a way to continue working towards those yearly goals he had previously set for his company. It was a major challenge, but after some time, he started to revisualize how he could work around the pandemic safely. And with the help of Shoreline Arts Alliance, he was able to pivot the focus of his group from producing traditional events to virtual ones.
“After that month of not doing anything, I called Eric [Dillner, CEO/Executive Director of Shoreline Arts Alliance] and he told me how they were starting to do conference calls with artists and arts organizations in the community” said Van Ness. He joined Let’s Chat, which was eventually to inspire Shoreline Arts Alliance’s Reopening CT Arts Venues Webinar Series and other pandemic-response programs, and helped to brainstorm ways to safely get the arts sector back on its feet. By helping to guide others in these workshops, Van Ness quickly realized the extent of the demand, and he began to reimagine the ways in which events could go on. “I’m an idea-person, I think outside the box, and that’s what got me to start pivoting. So we put this series together with [SAA] called Reimagining Events Virtually, with the goal of bringing the arts back to our communities,” Van Ness said.
“I worked with the New Haven Choral Event Team to help them remage their in person gala into a Virtual Gala, that's the role I play as a virtual event producer,” said Van Ness.“We do the LOEB awards – which is basically the Tony awards for business and journalism. It’s usually done in NYC, [but this year] we did the entire show virtually, with people from all over the world coming in.”
Virtual events aren’t just different in the format, an in-person awards show and a virtual awards show are two completely unique things. “The level at which you have to interact with your audience in a virtual event makes it a lot different, and we did that in the workshops with [SAA].” said Van Ness.
“At an in person event, people might be bored or start disengaging, but it’s unlikely they’re going to get up and leave. When they’re in their own homes – there’s really nothing stopping them. So it creates a bigger imperative to keep people engaged, and in that way virtual events are changing a lot of things for the better.” Van Ness said. “That’s part of reimagining everything. You have to completely think outside the box, and be willing to do things you’ve never done or seen done before.”
Taken at face value, having to cancel in-person events in favor of an online alternative seems like simply one of those unfortunate realities of COVID-19. But it’s becoming more clear that there are ways to not only make these events a success, but to create new possibilities for arts events in the future.
“There are some really great silver linings. Being virtual we could have people from all over the world join, because it’s not just in a ballroom somewhere. You lose the in-person element, but you can make it personal.” said Van Ness. His adaptive attitude is immediately clear, and as one listens to him it makes sense why these virtual events produced by Impact Arts have been so successful.
In fact, a lot of these events might continue to take place in a virtual environment, even when the pandemic is over. “All the events we do going forward are probably going to be hybrid,” predicted Van Ness.
“And when I’m talking to people who need to host these virtual events I tell them ‘Look, you’re artists, you’re creative by nature, this just forces you to be creative in a new way,’” Van Ness said. The artistic community is one of creative problem solvers -- Impact Arts Events Group and Shoreline Arts Alliance approach reopening with this in mind.
Van Ness cares deeply about our community, and wants to give back. He concluded his interview with a poignant message, “If there are people that are reading this and I can help them, reach out. Nevermind getting new clients, we’ve just gotta give back. We all have to take the skills that we have and share them. I think part of my success can be attributed to my willingness to do that.” We couldn’t agree more, Steve! Our devotion to “Transforming Lives Through the Arts” means that in times like these, helping our community is of the utmost importance.
To learn more about Impact Arts Events Group or to contact Steve Van Ness, please visit www.impactartsevents.com or email email@example.com
From the way people go to work to the way children attend school, COVID-19 has touched all aspects of our lives. The arts are no exception. The change to a virtual environment has been quite an adjustment for many in the industry, and Shoreline Arts Alliance is proud to have assisted many local businesses in adjusting to this new world. One of those is Impact Arts Events Group.
Shoreline Arts Alliance and Impact Arts Events Create the Model for a New Normal
By: Grahm Reynolds and Sushant Kunwar
Steve Van Ness, Owner of Impact Arts Events Group