For most, heading into a darkened theater to enjoy a film is a distant memory. Many commercially owned companies have opted to remain closed as a safety precaution through the pandemic.
But Golden Isles Arts and Humanities is not your average theater. The Brunswick-based organization offers numerous programs that bring a bit of culture to town. From live performances by professionals to acting camps for children, the nonprofit does a bit of everything.
Of course, since the start of the pandemic, the group has faced a great many challenges. With the doors shuttered for weeks on end and gatherings not possible, executive director Heather Heath and her team have had to find ways to make the mission work. To that end, they have offered virtual gallery openings and small group classes.
“Golden Isle Arts & Humanities and the Ritz Theatre, though limited in what we have been able to do since March, has continued to offer what we can and plan for the future. We have continued to host art exhibits in the Wilcox Gallery at the Ritz and patrons can view them in-person or online as we have created digital versions of all the exhibits,” she said.
“Currently, the annual Art Teachers’ Art exhibit can be viewed online and in the gallery through Sept. 25. We have been able to work with some of the artists and mentors of the Penguin Project in-person this summer and recently performed during the August First Friday at capacity to our socially distanced audience.”
They have also stayed connected with arts education participants through Zoom meetings. Looking ahead, Heath hopes that the fall will offer more chances to connect.
“We are hopeful to bring two live performances to the Ritz during the fall and be able to offer recorded versions of them as well. As with many of us in the live performance world, we are taking a lot of this one day at a time,” she said.
Most recently, they’ve started allowing patrons for social distanced movie screenings. Some of the films viewed include “Downton Abbey” and “Frozen.”
For Heath, the program has been a welcome way to keep the community engaged and entertained during this trying time.
“The screenings that we have had this month have gone well — not large crowds, but of course, that is something that we cannot do right now,” she said.
Instead, GIAH has arranged distanced seating in its historic theater, providing ticket holders space in both the lower and upper levels.
“We can safely distance 50 to 100 people in the auditorium,” she said.
There’s also plenty of sterilizing, and masks are required.
“We have a cleaning and disinfecting protocol in place and require masks to be worn — except when patrons are enjoying the free popcorn provided by Compass 360 Realty,” Heath said.
While it takes a few extra steps, it is well worth their efforts. Not only do they want to gain support for their programs but the films also offer the public an opportunity for a safe outing.
“We wanted to offer the community some opportunities to come out, by having have a variety of movies that may appeal to more people and see if people feel comfortable coming out,” Heath said.
There’s one more chance to do that. The last session will be offered at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Ritz. The film will be “Selma,” starring David Oyelowo as the Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Heath feels that this is a powerful way to close out the series.
“I am so pleased that we are able to screen ‘Selma’ based on the true events of the Civil Rights march lead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other leaders of the Civil Rights movement,” she said.
“It shows the disturbing political reality of the time, and it is a reminder, as one critic put it ‘of how powerful one man’s dream can be and how far way our nation is to seeing it through.’”
It is an especially timely message, considering the events across the country, as well as recently in Glynn County.
“In light of the recent tragic events even in our own community, it shows us that we still have a long way to go and it will take all of us, all of us, standing together to make a difference,” Heath said.