Mission Creek Underground showcases filmed performances during COVID-19 pandemic

Launched on April 1, Mission Creek Underground videos will be posted on the Mission Creek Instagram throughout the week.


Megan Conroy, Arts Reporter

Today would have been the third day of the 15th anniversary Mission Creek Festival. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival was postponed on March 12, but the Englert Theater staff didn’t leave it at that — instead organizing a virtual mini-festival to hold the community over until the rescheduled Mission Creek.

On April 1, the “Mission Creek Underground” project was launched, consisting of six artists’ performances in video form on the Mission Creek website, Facebook, and IGTV on Instagram. The lineup includes Elizabeth Moen, Spectral Snake, Garth Greenwell, Aseethe, Caleb Rainey, and Penny Peach Jr.

Each video will be posted between April 1-4, the time period when Mission Creek’s events would have taken place.

“The staff really had to take a second and think about our role in this time,” said Englert marketing director John Schickedanz. “We’ve been working really hard to identify ways we can continue to produce art for the community and be there as an outlet for people.”

Two weeks ago, Schickedanz and Andre Perry, the festival’s executive director, began having a conversation about the possibility of holding a virtual Mission Creek lineup.

“There was a sense of loss not seeing the festival come to fruition the way that we all anticipated,” Schickedanz said. “We all as a staff needed to have something like this that we could put out into the world — not to replace it, but to help us move forward a bit.”

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The six artists performed for an empty Englert Theater in the Mission Creek Underground videos shot by John Richard. The performances were recorded in one day. The equipment was routinely disinfected and people were kept away from each other, following CDC guidelines.

Caleb Rainey, a spoken-word poet on the festival lineup, is no stranger to a stage — although he typically has an audience. He performs the poetry from his two published books quite often and even had to cancel an East Coast tour due to the pandemic.

“Performing is some way of me proving my existence, so it was nice to have that moment,” Rainey said.

The abrupt transition from performing to a room full of people to an empty one was tricky for Rainey.

“It’s requiring me to really shift my work to make it virtual, which is just not as impactful,” Rainey said. “But, there’s no way around that, it’s the only way I can keep making art. That’s what I’m going with.”

While the modes of creating art have shifted, consuming art becomes a little easier — at least for Elly Hofmaier, also known as Penny Peach Jr.

“My art is less collaborative at this point,” Hofmaier said. “But I kind of feel like I’m having an easier time consuming the art that isn’t in person because I have more time. I don’t feel guilty about reading a book. As a musician, though, I love going to shows and they’re nice, but live streams aren’t the same.”

Hofmaier also performed to an empty Englert Theater.

“It was so quiet in the Englert. It was weird, it felt like a representation of the times. Weird, sterile, no one’s around,” Hofmaier said.

People missing the festival can find the Mission Creek Underground videos on their Instagram, @missioncreek. The full schedule is as follows:

  1. Elizabeth Moen: April 1, noon
  2. Spectral Snake: April 2, noon
  3. Garth Greenwell: April 3, noon
  4. Aseethe: April 3, 7 p.m.
  5. Caleb Rainey: April 4, noon
  6. Penny Peach Jr.: April 4, 7 p.m.