St. Joseph Symphony

Several members of the St. Joseph Symphony’s string section warm up for its 2020 Youth Concert at the Missouri Theater.

2020 — what a year! For as terrible of a year as it was in general, it also was one that shows that the arts will find a way to operate in St. Joseph.

Per tradition, let’s recap where arts and entertainment stand up in the area:

Venues and local arts organizations took huge hits: When I tell others about the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ll remember how fast things changed. In one week, the St. Joseph Performing Arts Association was bringing in a touring dance group to the Missouri Theater, bands were playing at local venues and the circus was coming to town! The next week, every venue was closed for months. For all venues and organizations, it will take a long while for things to return to something close to those “before times.” While they have received some funding and support from people and the government, they’ve all taken huge hits to stay afloat. Verdict: That’s bad.

Arts still are being supported in the area: In a year of uncertainty, we were reminded that people still see value in local arts and entertainment. We’ve seen people support bars through merch and curbside service. Places like Lanham Music brought local artists in for virtual shows. People are still showing up for concerts at venues like Cafe Acoustic and Unplugged (More on that later). Granted, there have been some missteps, disappointments and failures. But there’s a resiliency in supporters of the local scene and they’re showing they don’t want it to go away. Verdict: That’s good.

Concerts, performances are still happening with crowds: Let me get this out of the way — St. Joe Live always will promote local art, concerts and performance, even in a pandemic. That’s not me endorsing these shows, but rather giving the choice to people to choose for themselves. I’ve told multiple performers and artists that while I don’t agree that people are gathering for concerts, I understand that businesses have been so financially crippled that they don’t have a choice. Since the start of fall, COVID-19 numbers have been consistently awful in the area. Yet bars are open, we’ve allowed shows at the Missouri Theater and have indoor venues that are welcoming national acts to perform. I can’t help but feel like we’ve given up. It’s very depressing. Verdict: That’s bad.

Arts groups are reacting well: In August, the Allied Arts Council gave a ray of hope to people missing Trails West! or, really, any kind of arts festival in 2020. It will host a two-day bicentennial celebration of innovation, “St. Joseph 2021: From steam to S.T.E.A.M.,” at Civic Center Park in 2021. It was one of many positive responses to the pandemic. The Saint Joseph Symphony brought back some of its members for a virtual concert. The St. Joseph Performing Arts Association held a month of neighborhood concerts. None of these were big money or attention-makers enough to make up for all that was delayed or canceled, but it showed empathy for its performers and patrons, while also wanting to continue. This is what we need to see as COVID vaccines roll out. Here’s hoping to more of this this year. Verdict: That’s good.

Andrew Gaug can be reached at

Follow him on Twitter: @NPNOWGaug