COLLEGEVILLE/St. JOSEPH – The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t kept the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University from planning a lively calendar of fine arts events this fall.

The season, featuring a mixture of performances and interactive workshops, will be held entirely in virtual space with ticket prices on a sliding scale.

“Each performance has been created really intentionally to be experienced in a virtual world,” explained Tanya Gertz, Executive Director of Fine Arts Programming for St. Ben’s and St. John’s. “Instead of ‘here’s something that would normally happen on stage, and we’re going to show you a video,’ we are very intentionally trying to craft experiences that use the best of virtual.”

An upcoming example of the strategy is a pair of workshops featuring renowned Zydeco artist Terrance Simien. In one program, Simien will host a discussion focused on the roots and cultural importance of Zydeco music and Creole culture. In another, Simien will provide a tutorial on how to make a generations-old gumbo recipe alongside Mateo Mackbee, co-owner of Creole and Cajun-inspired Krewe Restaurant in St. Joseph.

Other events in the fine arts season have turned pandemic-related safety measures into what Gertz called “an incredible asset.”

 “Don’t get me wrong – there’s something about sharing the full sensory experience and experiencing art in a community theater,” Gertz said. “But this is a whole different thing. We’re using the scenario we’re in, this new format, to create really distinctive experiences that we couldn’t have created before.”

“And, you don’t have to park your car and worry about the snow,” Gertz added. “You can have your favorite cocktail on your favorite couch with your feet up!”

Gertz says other benefits of hosting virtual performances have revealed themselves over time.

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“This last performance, we had one group of people holding a watch party from Utah, St. Cloud and Grand Marais,” she explained. “People were able to experience something together in a way they wouldn’t have been able to before – which is a really cool thing I didn’t necessarily put together initially.”

There are six more workshops/performances left in the season, which will last through mid-December. Gertz says plans for a virtual spring series are already in the works. Tickets for the fall lineup of St. Ben’s and St. John’s fine arts events are available online, with the cost of each ticket ranging from $0-20 using a “pay what you can” model. Gertz says, even if you're unable to pay for a ticket, you must register for the workshop or performance on the ticketing page in order to receive a virtual access code.

To see the entire lineup of events, visit the St. Ben’s and St. John’s Fine Arts Programming website.