The time spent in quarantine – that is from mid-March till mid-May – was, amongst others, a rather productive period. I always believed that the most remarkable and innovative ideas are born out of situations of crisis, and challenges.
I need to confess though, that this period was not easy. Suddenly all projects, concerts and performances were put on hold or cancelled without further notice. Most of my colleagues were left without a job and it was more than clear that the art and culture sector was deeply affected. I had constantly the feeling that nothing and no one would ever be the same again.
It has always been in my nature to search for positive solutions and inspiring ideas. As an artist, I do not tend to limit myself and I keep all my options open. When everyone takes one direction, I usually take the opposite. Hence, this is how the idea for this project was born!
But, first, let us take things one step at a time. During those challenging times, many people asked me to make a live video of myself singing online my favourite aria in my living room or by my window. This situation made me feel frustrated, since for all artists and art workers around the world, this was not a time of relaxation and vacation; for many of us, this was – and still is – a time of desperation and uncertainty.
“Meet the Artists” started first as an idea of creating a platform in Facebook, where distinguished colleagues of mine and all kind of artists would have the opportunity to present themselves in a live Interview; a platform, where artists would finally have the chance to talk about their Ideas, projects, and express their fears. They would also have the opportunity to talk about the dark side of the so-called star system and art industry, without being focused on achieving high rating. My purpose is to make our voices heard and make ordinary people understand why artists are fighting so hard about their rights. The art and culture sector is always the first sector to be affected by a financial crisis and the last sector to receive any financial support, even when the crisis in question is over.
Of course, it is impossible to influence a country’s policy, but what we can do is to make our friends, families and people familiar with us and our art aware of our situation. We can show them what an artist’s daily routine consists of. We may have chosen a profession that some people might consider it to be as pleasant as a hobby, but the truth is it has nothing to do with hobby. Of course, we are lucky enough to feel content and happy while being on stage, making music, or painting a remarkable piece of art. What one might not know is that it takes hours of preparation, days of hard work and discipline, years of education and many sacrifices to be able to perform, paint or sing. Most of people might be ignorant of the fact that musicians, actors, entertainers, theatre workers, and dancers get rejected more often than they get chosen for a role or a job; most people do not know that artists do not even get paid as they should be, or they do not get paid at all sometimes. Quite often they spend their Christmas and Easter break and summer holiday working away from their families and loved ones, with unstable circumstances and with no fixed working hours. All these people work hard, pay their bills, rent and taxes just like any other worker does. Last but not least, “Culture is not a luxury but a necessity”.
Supported by my team, the cultural association “Vienna Quartiere Artistico”, I started the “Meet the Artists” project, a series of interviews. It took place in Vienna on a weekly basis, from May till the beginning of July. Every week we chose a different symbolic location in Vienna, presenting at the same time artists based in Vienna. All interviews were live-streamed on our Facebook page “Vienna Quartiere Artistico”. At first, I was not sure that these interviews would engage many people. But, when I conducted the first interview with Vasilis Tsiatsianis, a Vienna-based Greek contactor, I was very happy to see that in only a couple of hours the video had over 3000 viewers. Thus, I was sure that I was going in the right direction. This series hosted many extraordinary artists: Giorgos Papageorgiou, a Cypriot composer; Anna Baxter, an American soprano; the Austrian classical band “Tenori Amici”; Valbona Naku, an Albanian violinist and the concert master of the Wiener Barock Orchester; Pavel Kachnov, a Ukranian pianist and Bösendorfer artist; Lukas Sternath, a young Austrian pianist and rising star; Pantelis Polychronides, a Greek pianist and Senior Lecturer at the Voice department of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna; Anna Starzinger, an Austrian Cello player, composer and actress; Peter Svensson, a world-renowned Wagnerian tenor; and Jimmy Chiang, the Vienna Boys’ Choir Conductor, who comes from Hong Kong.
I started an incredible journey! Talking to these artists and analysing on camera their thoughts and views, the problems that they were suddenly facing due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the new challenges that, the “Corona Era”, as I like to call it, brought, increased constantly the number of my followers. Many of them waited every Saturday the scheduled time of the interview, to get to know a new distinguished artist, who would share on camera their personal experience. Quite inspiring was also the fact that, in those 8 weeks, more than 50000 viewers watched the interviews, while over 70000 people visited our Facebook page “Vienna Quartiere Artistico”. I began to realise the influence and impact that social media could have on people. Social media is a direct channel of communication with all people, while there is no need of a radio channel or a famous TV programme.
This project was conducted only in English till the beginning of July. Why you may ask? The reason is simple: to spread the word faster, easier, and not only to the German-speaking world. Now it was time to make this project known also to my homeland Cyprus. Thus, I decided to make a Greek edition of the project, addressing my friends and colleagues in Greece and Cyprus. This time, I decided to conduct the interviews on my official Facebook page “Soprano Chryso Makariou Homepage”. On July 29, my guest was Georgia Dötzer, the General Director of the Rialto Theatre in Limassol, and, on August 11, I interviewed Markella Neokleous and Marina Symeonidou, the Artistic Directors of Technopolis 20. On August 27, people had the opportunity to watch an interview with the well-known and awarded actor, scene director and Artistic Director of ETHAL, Achilleas Grammatikopoulos. On September 2, I interviewed the world-renowned and famous composer, Marios Joannou Elia and, last but not least, I talked with Andreas Tselepos, an awarded and well-known actor and president of the Actors Union of Cyprus.
These five interviews were so successful that words cannot even describe. People began to talk about it and asked who would be my next guest. I had over 80000 viewers and over 100000 visitors on my Facebook page! Most importantly, my guests were also happy. They were impressed by the fact that they were able to express their views on camera about topics that they did not get the chance to talk about on TV. We managed to create our own audience, by using just a cell phone, a microphone, and the power of social media. This paved the way for new thoughts and ideas! Most importantly, I realised that the biggest challenge of this crisis is that one needs to be READY and ABLE to adapt themselves quickly in new situations. We must not let our fear stop us and we need to be ready to experiment, find new ways to be productive, create new opportunities and wisely choose “our team”.
The journey is of course still ongoing, and the interviews are a great part of it! This project was the best thing I have ever come up with! Now I am back in Vienna and I choose to stay optimistic and focused on the things that bring me joy; “Meet the Artists” project is definitely one of these things! So, stay tuned and do not forget to follow me on social media so that you can receive all my updates on time. “Soprano Chryso Makariou presents” is about to present you some of the most known and world-class artists based in central Europe! These interviews are going to be live-streamed on our Facebook page “Vienna Quartiere Artistico”.
Be creative, positive and innovative!