Calgary Journal reporter Mackenzie Mason speaks to both Jennifer Johnson and Kevin Gardner about this year’s virtual facilitation and how the Arts Commons had to adjust their show in the midst of the pandemic. VIDEO: MACKENZIE MASON

It’s felt like an eternity since Calgarians have been able to enjoy the city’s vibrant arts and culture scene.

Despite COVID-19 stopping Arts Commons from putting on their shows in person, this didn’t stop the theatre’s director of programming, Jennifer Johnson, from getting creative with technology to put on the 10th annual National Geographic Live virtual presentations.

The series, which started Feb. 8 and runs until June 7, 2021, features one hour of virtual presentations and Q+A sessions featuring photographers and scientists in a wide range of topics, such as space exploration, reimagining dinosaurs and what mysterious creatures live in the seas.

“When the pandemic started, we wanted to remain connected with our audiences. And so National Geographic came to us and said ‘would you be open to working with us on some Facebook live events?’” Johnson says. 

Doors to the Arts Commons, a performing arts centre in Calgary, have been locked since last March, when COVID-19 cancelled or postponed all arts and entertainment events. PHOTO: MACKENZIE MASON

“National Geographic, they love our Calgary audiences, because Calgary is so dedicated to the series.”

The Arts Commons quickly pivoted to virtual streamed events, and National Geographic enthusiast and regular attendee, Kevin Gardner, says the series was actually more insightful than it would have been if the series continued in a live venue.

“When you’re seeing the presentation, you don’t get the sense of the clinical-ness of some of the work that they’ve done, whereas this kind of did because they were in their environment more than them coming to our environment,” Gardner says comparing the live event in past years to this year’s virtual facilitation.

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