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Cayuga County arts and culture go digital, not dark, during pandemic
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Cayuga County arts and culture go digital, not dark, during pandemic

The concert stages, gallery walls and other spaces where arts and culture happen in Cayuga County are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. But arts and culture are still happening.

As those spaces closed, complying with the state's efforts to enforce social distancing, they've continued their missions by setting up digital presences.

Cultural sites like the Seward House Museum and the Aurora Historical Society have been sharing their collections online, the museum through "Live Stream Lunches" at noon Thursdays on, and the society through a serialized version of its current show, "Scoundrels & Scamps," on Facebook as well.

The Cayuga Museum of History & Art, meanwhile, has begun "Museum in Exile," a new series of weekly programming.

Director of Development and Outreach Geoffrey Starks said Tuesday that he and Executive Director Kirsten Wise have wanted to make the museum more digitally accessible for awhile, so having to close its doors provided a glass-half-full opportunity. The museum has been inventorying its collection lately in order to digitize it for that purpose, Starks added.

"Museum in Exile" will take place Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays through social media posts (, the museum's website ( and email blasts. Starks said the series will explore the museum's art collection on Mondays, from works by well-known names like William Bruce and Robert Goodnough to lesser-known ones.

Wednesdays, the series will focus on periods of history. This week and last week have featured the 1918 flu and its local significance: One of the pandemic's victims was Willard Case, father of Theodore Case, who invented sound-on-film technology on the property where the museum now stands. Willard Case died of the flu because he declined to sequester his servants, Starks noted.

Fridays, "Museum in Exile" will look to the community for content by issuing social media challenges. Last Friday, it was taking three to five items that followers have in their houses and arranging an exhibit from them. This Friday, followers will be asked to post photos that encapsulate what life is like during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starks said these challenges have two purposes.

"The images we're taking that people are giving us are excellent documentation of the experience of this historical period," he said. "And it's showing we're still engaging with the community, being a community museum, but we're just finding different ways of doing that."

Connecting with the community is also inspiring Katie MacIntyre, host of local podcast "The Loving Cup." But instead of art or history, she's building those connections through gratitude.

Monday, MacIntyre started a new Facebook Live show, "Gratitude Nooner," using video app Zoom. It can be found at noon weekdays at or by searching for #GratitudeNooner. 

The debut episode featured MacIntyre chatting with Prison City Pub & Brewery owners Dawn and Marc Schulz, and the host has about a week's worth of guests lined up so far, she said. Episodes, which are about 15 to 20 minutes, will be shaped by the guest, the things they're grateful for and the ways they're coping with the circumstances of the pandemic.

"This is affecting everyone so differently," MacIntyre said. "So I wanted a chance for people to share their stories, but also remind everyone that there are still things to be grateful for, and that it will help us if we can think of those things and help others."

MacIntyre also believes the pandemic has increased people's need for distraction. Both that and the need for human connection have led area entertainers to go digital as well, such as Auburn comedian Jeffrey Emmette, who was set to launch a weekly stand-up open mic at the Lavish Lounge when the state ordered bars and restaurants to close except for takeout and delivery.

Instead, Emmette revived his program "Uncensored Radio," which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at or

Emmette's co-hosts include James Hankins, Katie McCarthy and Vera Carabajal, of Auburn. The show will also feature Emmette's friend Luke Johnson, a nurse in Australia who will check in with his perspective on the pandemic. And there will be appearances by Katrina Johnson ("All That" on Nickelodeon), Karan Ashley ("Mighty Morphin Power Rangers") and more.

"We want to keep people informed, entertained and hopefully laugh along the way," Emmette said.

The near future is also digital for Auburn Public Theater, which has cancelled or postponed all of its live music, comedians, movies and other programming through mid-April at least.

But the theater took to online entertainment quickly, livestreaming a comedy show March 14 and moving its next Tuesday Nite Mic to Facebook Live ( The downtown theater's digital slate continues at 7 tonight with the first of eight straight nights of Facebook watch parties featuring readings from "A Feminist Extravaganza," which the theater staged in January. The production was filmed for airing closer to August, when the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified, said Angela Daddabbo, the theater's artistic director. 

Daddabbo couldn't help finding some irony in the fact the theater is trying to entertain people in their homes.

"We created Auburn Public Theater to get people out of their houses," she said. "But the ethos of the theater is to be together with someone."

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the theater will also feature a "#Quarantainment" stand-up comedy set by New York City-based Madelein Smith, and viewers will be able to comment in real time. Daddabbo said the theater — which is conducting all its board and staff meetings by phone and Zoom — is also discussing a biweekly livestream of music and comedy. 

When Auburn Public Theater reopens, Daddabbo could see it being helped or hurt by the pandemic. The theater's digital entertainment could engage people who've never set foot inside, and decide to do so the next time they can because they're a little more familiar with the space and its mission. Or the digital shift could entrench people further into their devices, she said.

Whatever happens, Daddabbo hopes the theater, with its digital programming, just helps people get through the days ahead.

"This is an exercise in staying in the present and taking care of each other one meal at a time," she said.

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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I edit The Citizen's features section, Lake Life, and weekly entertainment guide, Go. I've also been writing for The Citizen and since 2006, covering arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.

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