Sask. T-shirt project raising money for smaller music venues struggling during pandemic
The Sask Venues Project paired local designers with local venues to create unique, limited edition T-shirts
This is a part of the Good News Saskatchewan series. You can read all the pieces from the series at cbc.ca/lovesk.
It's been difficult for the Lyric Theatre, especially during the past few weeks, said Gordon McCall, the venue's artistic and executive director.
The theatre is located in Swift Current, Sask., in the province's southwest — one of the areas that has had a recent COVID-19 outbreak.
The venue has been hosting the online shows under the Lyric Digital Stage name.
"It keeps our spirit alive," he said. "As artists we know that this is a time and place for us to really step up and help people out psychologically."
Even with the digital performances, McCall said the theatre had to put out a call for donations as the theatre may not be able to open until next year.
Now, SaskMusic is hoping to help. The Sask Venues Project pairs a graphic designer with a local venue to create a custom, limited edition T-shirt, with all the profits going to the venue.
Michael Dawson, executive director of Sask Music, said he saw similar initiatives happening elsewhere and thought it was a good opportunity during the uncertainty created by COVID-19.
"It's truly an unprecedented challenge, that is the truth," Dawson said. "There's a reality of it that we don't know how long it'll be until many of these places were able to run at full capacity."
Dawson cited a recent U.S. study suggesting 90 per cent of independent venues may close without government support in the coming months. He said that's a dire situation, given that small venues give new musicians a chance to develop their careers.
"People just need to really appreciate the value of live music and support these venues," Dawson said. "This is just one way and we do encourage people to keep an eye on their favorite venues and support any other initiatives that they have as well."
T-shirts are available at saskvenuesproject.com.
McCall said that even if only a few sell, the gesture is hugely important for the small non-profit theatre.
"It was really exciting and I also thought it was a huge generous response," McCall said. "What's really making us all feel positive about being Canadian and being from Saskatchewan is the generosity of people and people pulling together."
Kelsey Chabot, a Saskatoon-based designer who grew up in the Swift Current area, did the design for the Lyric.
"It's like we won the lottery," McCall said of Chabot. "She has stepped up and it's a beautiful T-shirt. It is a work of art."
Chabot and her husband lost their jobs immediately when the pandemic hit. As a result, she's been doing freelance artwork and was thrilled to create the design for the Lyric Theatre, she said.
She was in high school when the Lyric Theatre reopened around 2006. She went to see live music and got her first job there as well.
"It was a very special part of my life," she said. "It directly led to the community I'm involved with today and the work I do today. So it definitely holds a very special place in my heart."
Chabot made sure her design included the iconic stag mural from the side of the building — an old advertisement for Stag Tobacco — and used letters from a sign that was outside the Lyric in the 1920s.
"I was fortunate to have known so much about the building already," Chabot said. "It's got a lot of history."
McCall said he wants to thank everyone for their support. He said he hopes people remember to take the pandemic seriously and that they can get back to shows soon.
"I've come up with a saying: six feet apart or six feet under," McCall said. "We want everybody healthy like everybody does. So please wear a mask and stay six feet apart."
With files from The Morning Edition