Courtesy art | Juneau Arts and Humanities Council
                                Lily Hope is the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s featured artist for this week’s Virtual First Friday.

Courtesy art | Juneau Arts and Humanities Council Lily Hope is the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s featured artist for this week’s Virtual First Friday.

With physical contact forbidden, Juneau finds new ways to socialize

First Friday will move to an all-online format

As Juneau hunkers down to weather the continuing storm of the coronavirus outbreak, residents have to find new ways to enjoy the arts — and each other’s company.

First Friday, Juneau’s much-beloved monthly celebration of the arts, is moving to an all-digital medium, said Juneau Arts and Humanities Council artist program manager Laura Miko in a phone interview.

First Friday isn’t the only thing moving into a new format, as Juneau residents find new ways to socialize, using apps formerly used mainly for videoconferences to hold happy hours and dance parties, even states away from each other.

(Digital) First Friday

With nonessential businesses closed and social distancing in place, First Friday couldn’t be held downtown. So the JAHC came up with the idea to move it online.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” Miko said. “So we ran with it.”

Members of the community reached out to the JAHC to support the move, Miko said. While this month’s showings will include recaps from last month, Miko anticipates that next month’s First Friday offerings will be larger — and still online.

“I know we have some of our gallery and hobby shop artists are doing their own thing,” Miko said. “We’re thinking we’re going to have another virtual First Friday next month the way things are going.”

First Friday could be a boon to a community struggling with distance and isolation in a weird time, Miko said.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit before everyone feels comfortable going out again and having these virtual events is key to keeping our community together,” Miko said. “In times of uncertainty, art is something that we all need to get through. This is a way for people to connect to each other even if they can’t see each other.”

The JAHC will post the links to the artists, videos, and galleries on Friday morning, keeping the First Friday timing alive. Artists with displays or performances this First Friday include Mercedes Munoz, Pia Reilly, Lily Hope, Jerry Smetzer, Crystal Cudworth and more.

Keeping the party alive: virtual gatherings

“So, I’ve been working from home for… this is the beginning of week four. My outside interactions have been limited,” said Melissa Griffiths, a communications director and self-described dog queen. “I thought it would be fun instead of having a work meeting, to host a Zoom happy hour.”

Zoom is a video conferencing app that’s rocketed to white-hot, incandescent popularity as the coronavirus outbreak pushes classes, meetings, and hangouts out of the physical and into the digital. It’s one of a number of videoconferencing apps that’s in use socially. Other popular examples include Google Hangouts and Skype.

“I think Zoom is one of the easier ones to use and it’s pretty accessible,” Griffiths said. “People didn’t seem to have much trouble. In my work place, we use it a ton with people of all ages and levels of comfort with technology.”

Griffiths said she’s used video conferencing apps to host Happy Hours with friends from Anchorage to Hawaii. While her first one was just her and another friend, she’s been part of gatherings with more than a dozen different parties videoing in. Happy Hours aren’t the only thing that she’s taken part in, however.

“I participated in a Zoom dance party that was hosted by friends in Portland,” Griffiths said. “You have to use more than Zoom for this one. You have to work out a way to broadcast the playlist or the DJ set so that everyone is dancing to the same thing at the same time.”

Even in the face of quarantine, we can find ways to have a good time with our friends.

“It really made my Friday, having that happy hour,” Griffiths said. “Seeing everyone dressed up, chatting with people. Even though it wasn’t face-to-face, in-person, it was the closest thing to it in a long time.”

Advice for video conferencing

Griffiths was happy to provide advice for video conferencing visual optimization.

“If at all possible with your video chats or conferencing, you should avoid being backlit.T ry to have light directly on your face,” Griffiths said. “If at all possible you should have your webcam at an angle that is straight on or angled a little downward toward you so it’s not looking up your nose.”

It’s also good to find a room without much background noise if you’re going to talking in the chat frequently. It is considered deeply culturally offensive not to mute your microphone if you’re not talking.

“I’ve set up my zoom station at my window so I have natural light and stacked up two large cookbooks on it so it faces down,” Griffiths said. “It’s easy to talk over each other and at first it can seem a little chaotic, but you figure it out as it goes.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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