In collaboration with local radio station KBBI AM 890, Bunnell Street Arts Center is producing “Bunnell Artists on the Air,” a program for Homer musicians to have their performances not only broadcast by the station, but also compensated by the center during a time of decreased performance opportunities for local artists.
Bunnell Street Arts Center created the program to aid musicians who have lost opportunities to perform for live audiences due to COVID-19 health guidelines. A stipend is given to the performers in accord with Bunnell’s funds from a CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act grant through the Alaska Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Nonprofit Relief Fund.
According to Adele Person, the Executive Director of Bunnell, the center has supported local musicians throughout this year of COVID-19-related difficulties. Person has worked alongside Katie Emerick, a new member of the Bunnell board of directors primarily in charge of the program, and the entire board of directors to organize multiple efforts to support local performers. Their partnership and combined experience with producing shows, managing grants and coordinating artists has allowed them to successfully cooperate with KBBI to implement “Bunnell Artists on the Air.”
“We’ve been doing various things for artists … we issued some artist relief funds when the pandemic first hit that were funded by some private donations,” Person said. “(We have also) had several programs under that (CARES Act) grant …one of them is the Direct Artist Relief (program) and another one has been putting musicians to work in this partnership with KBBI.”
Under this program, musicians are given the opportunity, the time, and occasionally a venue to record, play live, and stream their performances for the local community. Audio is aired by KBBI during a selected time as part of its regular radio schedule. Even though this effort is a direct result of the CARES Act grant, Bunnell and KBBI are still planning on continuing to support local artists in the future.
“We would like to continue that partnership with KBBI, having shows broadcast from Bunnell’s gallery whether live or recorded,” Person said. “I think we would love to raise that bar for paying musicians … now that we have a model … It might not be so hard to find further funding whether it’s for the musician’s fees, the artist’s stipends themselves, or additional equipment that might be needed.”
Josh Krohn, the General Manager at KBBI, is working with Bunnell Street Arts Center and Homer musicians to support “Bunnell Artists on the Air.” Some responsibilities of the station include contacting potential artists, coordinating and scheduling performances, and, in some cases, providing technical equipment and support for the musicians.
However, this is not the first effort from KBBI, like Bunnell, to champion local artists.
“We’ve been doing local performances on air since March when everything got locked down,” Krohn said. “It was already a natural move for Bunnell to send their performing artists our way and use us as a venue.”
KBBI has recorded concerts at Bunnell in the past for broadcast, naturally progressing to performing and airing remotely under current conditions, according to Krohn. Musicians have the option of, if available, performing within Bunnell Street Arts Center, or another location of their choice, such as their home. If needed, KBBI is able to provide technical support if the performer is not able to connect remotely.
As for finding artists, the station has several connections to local musicians from past collaborations with the station and the community.
“Homer’s great… we’ve got a whole lot of musical performers here and a lot of great, talented folks that love to get out and play in front of people,” Krohn said. “We have connections with a lot of them going back many years, having performed at Concert on the Lawn or other events for the station.”
These connections allow KBBI to have a reliable, diverse selection of artists that are interested in contributing to, and benefiting from the program. These musicians provide a wide variety of genres ranging from contemporary, to classic, to folk and rock.
Performances are usually scheduled on weeknights from 7-8 p.m. with classical performances scheduled earlier in the day. These performances, when scheduled, are held in place of KBBI’s national classical program held on weekdays from 11 a.m. to noon.
“This is a challenging time for musicians… even if you can find a venue with people to perform to, they’re at 50 percent, or sometimes 25 percent capacity, which means that you’re taking a cut at the door, you’re getting a fraction of what you would have been accustomed to before the pandemic hit,” Krohn said. “This is providing an opportunity for a good paycheck for the artists to help them sustain themselves in absence of other work.”
Interested artists and listeners can find more information on KBBI’s Facebook page @KBBIAM890, Instagram @kbbiam890, and website, www.kbbi.org. For more information about Bunnell Street Arts Center, visit their Facebook page @BunnellArts, Instagram @bunnellarts, and newsletter and website at www.bunnellarts.org.