LA GRANDE — The coronavirus pandemic has pushed one of Union County’s mixed-use creative space and event venues to get more creative itself.
Hq, 12 Depot St. in downtown La Grande, for two years provided space for live music, film screenings, Eastern Oregon University presentations and more. But the venue shut its doors in mid-March to help curtail the spread of the virus. Co-owner Christopher Jennings said the place had to cancel on the musician booked for a performance at the time.
“We made the right decision canceling that show,” he said.
Closing meant cutting off revenue for hq, which on Sundays served as the worship space for Christ Church and is a venue for the Eastern Oregon Film Festival, another child of Jennings’. He also said closing hurt the effort to build greater awareness and audience for hq.
“So there are a lot of micro impacts that are happening with our space shut down,” Jennings said.
Being in that tough spot proved to be the catalyst for hq, its partners and Cold Coffee Media — which Jennings also owns — to combine resources to secure substantial recording equipment, he explained, that allow livestreaming of performances and even live switching between cameras to create professional-level video.
The setup at hq also allows for enough space, Jennings said, to meet social distancing requirements.
Hq has been a key space for local and regional musicians, Jennings said, and one way to continue in that service is to record, edit and distribute via social media platforms (Facebook and YouTube) a weekly “Three Song Set.” The productions are available for viewing at lagrandehq.com.
The 10th production will be released Friday at 9 p.m., featuring La Grande’s Adam Lange, and an 11th is Saturday involving R&M (Randolph & Mandella), a pair of musicians from Pilot Rock.
Jennings said that will wrap up the first season of performances, but season two will commence next week.
“We’re not sure if we’ll call it ‘Three Song Set’ yet, but we’re getting ready for the next wave,” he said.
The long-term goal, he continued, is to record live concerts, complete with audiences, and provide touring bands with video of their performance, a move that benefits both the bands and hq.
Hq also has been working with the Portland-based Independent Venue Coalition to garner funds from the federal CARES Act to prop up performance spaces that have sustained financial losses due to the pandemic. Jennings said the coalition involves massive concert halls to small venues, with hq “probably on the spectrum of the smallest of the small,” yet the fiscal effects of dealing with the virus hits across the spectrum.
Obtaining some federal funds for hq and other venues, Jennings said, is not just about keeping a business going. Performance spaces are community spaces, he said, and La Grande and other communities will need venues once the threat of the pandemic subsides.
“You see a renaissance of art that follows massive trauma,” he said, “because that’s how we cope with the trauma.”