BY GABRIELLE M. HAMILTON
It was March 9, 2020, when Flushing Town Hall senior staff met to discuss temporarily closing due to the threat of a coronavirus pandemic.
Just the previous week, we disinfected our beautiful historic building and held our monthly Jazz Jam, two shows for school students, and a family workshop and show, taking every precaution to clean and encourage social distancing.
At the time, New York City’s public schools were still in session. But just days later, on March 16, our nation’s largest public school system announced schools would close for at least a month and begin remote learning. Families and students scrambled to get technology in place to adapt to this new environment.
For nonprofit arts organizations such as Flushing Town Hall (FTH), pivoting to remote programs was equally challenging. In a typical year, FTH Arts Education provides 150 after-school programs, residencies, workshops, and performances to approximately 20,000 students and families.
Following the closures, our education staff reached out to schools, senior centers and families to let them know what was cancelled, postponed or moved online, even as we developed new virtual content.
And two weeks later, we launched the first of our virtual lessons, “Flushing Town Hall at Home: Global Arts for Global Kids,” a nine-week series led by a diverse group of master teaching artists on topics such as Colombian music, Chinese dance, and pop-up books.
Of course, at that time, we anticipated that by the end of the series we could return to our theater, schools and senior centers. But we all know what happened next.
As the new school year begins, we recognize that school field trips will not look the same; no students chattering excitedly in our theater as a show begins, no high-fives as performers take their final bows.
But with the creativity and inventiveness of our amazing teaching artists, our education team reimagined in-person programs while still adhering to the city’s learning standards. That’s how we have adapted to continue to serve Queens and beyond, and how we will continue this fall.