Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Virtual Events – The New Normal

Virtual lunch with Ebell members, who listen intently as Windsor Square resident and author Todd Purdham talks about his recent book on Rogers and Hammerstein. Ebell programs are open to non-members.

Once they recovered from the shock of having to close their historic clubhouse to comply with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Safer at Home” orders, Ebell members decided they wanted to figure out how to keep the members connected to club life. Soon, they, like many other groups, turned to technology to offer virtual versions of their events whenever possible.

“We had programs scheduled through June!” Laurie Schechter, Director of Programs at the Ebell of Los Angeles, told the Buzz.  Monthly, that translates to a dozen or so stand-alone programs like workshops, field trips, lectures, etc…plus a host of recurring events like the chorale, book club, bridge club, and the writing club.

“We had a wonderful line-up of programs tied to Women’s History Month [in March], but sadly, everything had to be cancelled,” said Schechter.

Using the Ebell’s new Zoom account and skillset, they held a programming meeting and hatched several programs to offer to see if members would be interested.

“Instead of luncheon and speaker, we decided to offer a lunchtime speaker and you could  bring your own lunch,” said Schechter. “We started with presentations from our own members. Regina Lark offered a session on home organization, and emergency room physician Angelique Campen gave us a wonderful and timely presentation on how to protect ourselves from COVID-19. Windsor Village author Todd Purdham, who was scheduled to present a talk on his recent book on Rogers and Hammerstein in April, delivered his fascinating talk on Zoom.”

Looking back, it seems pretty obvious that people would jump on a video call for a program, but what really surprised Schechter was the enthusiastic response to the Club’s Confab event,  a wine and cheese social reception usually held in the club’s library. More than 40 members signed up to participate!

“Once we discovered breakout rooms on Zoom, we randomly assigned people into groups, invited people to share what they were doing, meet new people and generally catch up, then we rotated the groups one more time,” explained Schechter. “Everyone brought a drink and a snack, to sip and nibble throughout the hour-to-90-minute confab.”

“I was really surprised at how comfortable and heartwarming it was to be in this space again. It was an emotional space, not our physical space,” said Schechter. “I was amazed how much we learned about each other. Personally, it was better than I could have imagined.”

Ebell members, like so many of us, are looking for ways to connect with our pre-COVID-19 lives, and when we can, we really appreciate it. Humans are wired for connecting and fortunately technologies like Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangout and countless apps are offering us safe ways to counter the loneliness of social distancing.

We’ve started noticing more and more virtual events popping up — too many for us to catalogue here, but we thought we’d share some we found that seem interesting. Look for more on our Buzz calendar and please share your own events there, too (the calendar is free and self-service!). We are going to focus on local events, since that’s a unique service we can offer our readers, but since there’s no physical gathering place, we’re happy to post virtual events from anywhere.

Starting with some of those local events, our museums are offering many virtual programs and tours, expanding the reach of those amazing institutions beyond their physical sites.

For example, LACMA has redesigned its homepage to make it easier for visitors to find content curated by its staff. The page will be updated continuously while the museum is closed. The Natural History Museum of LA County invites visitors to explore “our natural and cultural worlds” through NHMLAC Connects. The museum’s citizen science programs continue with the recent City Nature Challenge. The LA Zoo invites visitors to celebrate the planet with an Endangered Species Draw-Along with Artist Brian Kesinger via Facebook Live.

Widening the scope a bit, the LA Philharmonic invites visitors to listen in to home recitals with orchestra members. Carnegie Hall is streaming past performances.  The Craft Contemporary Museum offers easy at-home craft projects, artist talks from the museum’s archives and, virtual artist studio visits. And these are just a few of of the local offerings.   The entire State Hermitage Museum in Moscow can be visited online. The art platform Artsy seems to have the entire art world online.

And then there’s our LA Public Library, offering tons of online program. The library has also waived all fines for overdue items – just return materials when the libraries reopen.

Moving beyond arts organizations, Realtors have adapted too, moving all their open houses online. Local retailer Miracle Mile Toys offered a free online Magic Show & Mini-Class last Sunday as a way to promote magic classes. On Larchmont, Rhodes School of Music is offering online classes and concerts by its instructors.

Despite cancelling events, schools are finding other ways to celebrate their graduates. Otis College of Art and Design announced the online launch of its 38th Annual Exhibition on Friday, May 8, 2020 featuring work from graduating seniors and graduate students highlighting projects within 10 academic departments throughout the school.

Like the Ebell,  The American Cinematheque is adapting programming to stay connected with its audience, offering special virtual screening opportunities – and whenever possible adding the extra component of a Q&A that audiences would otherwise enjoyed at the Aero or Egyptian Theatres. The virtual screenings also help support the Cinematheque, which receives a portion of the revenue from each ticket sold.

This is just a smattering of what’s out there. Many organizations are struggling with a complete lack of funding, so this is a great way to stay connected to their members and supporters, ask for donations from those who can contribute, and maybe increase their support. Please feel free to share events with us on our free, self-service calendar or email us at [email protected].


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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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