Richland Library is fortunate to be able to provide opportunities for local artists and the community to learn, connect and share through the Artist-in-Residence program.
Since 2015, the Artist-in-Residence program has aimed to collaborate with artists to support a vibrant creative community in Richland County, allowing artists to produce work in a welcoming and creative space and facilitate unique and productive experiences for Richland Library customers.
Since our founding in 2015, Columbia Operatic Laboratory, aka COLab, has pursued the mission of connecting the age-old artform of opera to the community of the Midlands in fresh and meaningful ways. Sometimes this looks like bringing people to the opera for the first time, like seeing brand-new faces at our more traditional performances such as A Night at the Opera or The Impresario, and other times it means bringing opera to the people - in churches, restaurants, bars, and, now, at the library.
COLab has been proud to partner with the Richland Library as an Artist in Residence (and apparently as the first group to occupy the role, so we’ve been told). As we come to the end of our residency, it is incumbent upon us to reflect on how this partnership has furthered our community engagement.
Richland Library’s mission is to “help the community Learn, Create, and Share,” and that has a lot in common with COLab’s goals. Throughout our residency, we have been given new opportunities to help people learn about opera and the arts, by offering mini voice lessons on the street, sharing our monthly reading recommendations, and offering guest lectures and presentations. We have also been able to help people create. Our studio space in the library was the venue for our first ever open auditions for our season, which were a huge success, bringing out local singers (#SingLocal) with various backgrounds and experience levels, including old friends and new faces, all of whom were able to find a place in at least one of our projects.
We also involved the community in producing an opera by having collaborative prop-making for our second annual Pirates of Penzance Sing-A-Long. It was a unique experience to see so many people, some of whom had never been to an opera before, take part not just in supporting and watching one but actually helping to build it from the ground up, learning more about what goes into putting on a show like this along the way. Many were able to share the props they made with the cast, allowing them to be used at the performance, while others opted to take a few of the pirate-themed crafts home for family and friends - just in time for Talk Like a Pirate Day!
In a similar vein, we were able to hold optional chorus rehearsals in the library’s auditorium throughout the months of September and October, allowing participants ages 6-69 to learn their parts for the Sing-A-Long together under the direction of local conductors Becky Loar and Allison Yablonski. These rehearsals were not only helpful but also a lot of fun.
As a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, COLab is focused on arts education and accessibility through opera, and we will be continuing that mission as our incredible partnership with the Richland Library draws to a close.
Those who are interested can find more about us on our website https://columbiaoperaticla.wixsite.com/colab or on our social media pages (@ColumbiaOperaticLaboratory on Facebook and Instagram), and can sign up for our email newsletter to remain up-to-date about events and opportunities. We would like to thank the Richland Library for their support, and we cannot wait to see what partnerships will be in store for the future.
--- Joseph Birch, Columbia Operatic Laboratory