This month, the community venue is introducing an all-new lineup in “FTH at Home!”- a free series of virtual experiences that includes streamed Friday night concerts, arts education for children, a live jazz jam and Zoom community hangouts.
“Everything that we do is driven by our mission,” says executive and artistic director Ellen Kodadek, “which is to bring people together around art and cultural traditions from around the world.”
True to this pursuit, FTH is celebrating Asian Pacific Heritage Month with a presentation of “Crazy Talented Asians & Friends” on May 30. The event will feature an hour of animated shorts, followed by another hour of live comedy from local stand-up comics.
On Fridays at 7 p.m., viewers can come together for weekly Facebook watch parties, enjoying pre-recorded performances that took place at Town Hall over the years.
The calendar for May showcases Korean drumming group Light & Beat, Latin Grammy-winner Gustavo Casenave, a hip-hop story by Joe Kye and Jason Chu, a tribute to the jazz compositions of Marian McPartland, and a Korean chamber music ensemble.
Also coming up is FTH’s second-ever virtual jazz jam, “Celebrating the Legacy of Louis Armstrong,” on May 13.
As the online alternative to one of the organization’s most beloved monthly gatherings, the event invites 20 global artists to participate in an invigorating jam session, which can be watched through Zoom of Facebook Live.
The venue is keeping the community even further connected with weekly Zoom hangouts for the greater public on Thursdays at 1 p.m., and one exclusively for Queens artists at 5 p.m. on Fridays.
“If you look at what people are responding to online,” Kodadek begins, “everyone is turning to the arts. They’re watching comedy and opera, visiting online exhibits, participating in workshops, lessons and tutorials of all kinds.
“It’s evident to those of us who work in this field how important the arts are in a time like this,” she continues. “The arts are more vital to people’s well being and self expression than they realize, and it’s amazing to see people exploring their creativity right now.”
Following FTH’s commitment to making artistic experiences accessible and affordable for as many people as possible, all “FTH at Home!” programming is presented free of charge.
However, in order to balance staggering revenue losses and to be able to pay its roster of nearly 30 teaching artists to create new content, the venue is raising private funds.
Anyone can participate in the “Step Up for Flushing Town Hall” fundraiser, and those moved to contribute can do so by visiting flushingtownhall.org/donate.
The education team at FTH is supporting remote learning for schools and families by sharing arts content online through “FTH at Home: Global Arts for Global Kids.”
Students can dive into diverse cultures through videos on subjects like Chinese dance, Indian dance, Colombian music, and pop-up artwork.
In May, the series, which has received more than 2,500 views on YouTube, will add Mexican dance and African drumming to its catalog.
“Through this program, we are teaching students to respect different cultures,” says Abha Roy, a teaching artist who specializes in Indian classical and folk dance. “And they are learning mediums that are also very interesting. Not only by sitting at a desk, but hands-on through arts and storytelling.”
Roy has been working with FTH since 2013, and she says her experience with the venue has felt like that of a family ever since.
Although the artist misses working with students in person, she was uplifted last week by correspondence from a principal at an unfamiliar school where a teacher came across Roy’s “Global Arts” video online and recommended it to her pre-K students.
The email included a short video of the kids dancing along to Roy’s instruction.
“I didn’t know any of them, nor the particular school or teacher,” she explains, “but I felt so good that even though I am staying at home and not out there with students, this technology allows us to reach kids, even beyond our usual classrooms.”
In terms of the future, Kodadek says that while some elements of online programming are most likely here to stay, she is most looking forward to opening the doors to FTH once again and hugging “every single person who walks through the door.”
“Art provides a way to learn about yourself and to learn about others,” she muses. “Human beings still, and will always need, to come together.”
A full schedule of virtual programming can be found at flushingtownhall.org/fth-at-home.