The Tiny Lights Festival is taking some unique new directions in response to the pandemic.
With all public gatherings on hold until it is safe to gather again, Carla Stephenson of Tiny Lights says they do not know whether there will be a festival this summer.
But there’s a lot happening anyway: a paid professional development program for artists, a series of high-production videos, and workshops for children, all of which reflect Tiny Lights’ signature blend of emerging artists from across the country that has defined their live festival for years.
Stephenson says the point is to keep serving artists and audience in a meaningful way.
“We need to keep them. We need to keep our communities super-engaged in what we’re doing.”
The Tiny Lights Festival has operated in Ymir for the past 10 years, using eight small venues for performances over three days, in effect turning the whole town into a festival site for line-ups of emerging national and international artists.
Tiny Lights Ignites
Tiny Lights Ignites is an online mentorship series in which the participants pay nothing and in fact receive a $100 honorarium for being there.
“Our community is musicians and artists,” Stephenson says. “And because of COVID they’re really having a hard time. And so we thought that paid professional development for musicians and artists would be a really great way for us to to help serve them.”
The mentors chosen by the festival were asked to define not only what they want to teach, but also to whom they want to teach it. The festival accepts workshop registrations depending on what community the mentor wants to reach.
For example, the Indigenous artist Ronnie Dean Harris prioritized Indigenous participants in his workshop about historic tracing of Indigenous individuals’ lineage. Harris presented his Research to Resilience online workshop for Tiny Lights last year and another is scheduled for March 23, March 30 and April 27.
The singer-songwriter Tariq Hussain wants to work with young, emerging rural songwriters. His workshop, Try Songwriting for a Change, in which Stephenson says he will “explore the craft of lyric writing through close listening, discussion, experimentation, collaboration and practice,” takes place April 9, 10 and 11.
The other two workshops this spring will be Nature and We: Models for Creativity, Justice and Collective Resilience, by Khari Wendall McClelland on March 18, March 25, and April 1, and Writing and Performing Comedy Songs by Shirley Gnome on March 29 and April 12.
Registrations are now open on the Tiny Lights website.
Stephenson says this model is unique and it springs from an awareness of how much artists are affected by the pandemic.
“We wanted to be really serving artists, because artists are really suffering right now, as we all know. We wanted to build community around artists, do anything we can do to value the work they are doing.”
Tiny Lights Insights
The festival’s second big project is the production of 36 videos of performances by emerging artists, not live-streamed and not performed before an audience, released slowly over time on the Tiny Lights website. The videographers were paid and the videos are given to the artists at no cost. For an example, see the video above.
“We were able to give musicians a product at the end that was really professional and they didn’t have to pay for it,” Stephenson says.
The program features a line-up of emerging artists reminiscent of the live festival.
Three of the videos are on the website now, with the rest to be released throughout the year.
Tiny Lights Kindle
The festival is also planning a children’s program for the summer and fall.
“The third community that we serve is the Ymir youth,” says Stephenson, “and that we will be doing through Tiny Lights Kindle. It builds on the programming that we have always done for the kids of Ymir.”
She says planning is in progress and that two of the instructors will be Lucas Myers and Coco Love Alcorn.