How does one react to change? To crisis? At Arts Umbrella, when our way of delivering programs was uprooted due to the pandemic, absolute necessity revealed the resolve, innovation, and adaptation of our staff and students across the organization. We believe that creativity thrives from human interaction, personal instruction, and collaboration with your peers; in that spirit, we dedicated ourselves to continuing our work while putting the safety of our students and staff at the fore.

It was March 2020. We were accepting final registrations for our Spring Break Camps and Spring Session classes, deep in planning for Summer programming. And then a new reality took hold. We watched with concern the rapid evolution of COVID-19 from isolated cases across the globe to all-encompassing public health crisis. With a heavy heart, Arts Umbrella cancelled programs and auditions.

But we knew that our community’s appetite for creative expression would only grow as the pandemic tightened its grip. With staff working tirelessly from home to iron out logistics, we managed to adapt a selection of programs to online delivery by April. While upcoming live exhibitions and performances sadly had to be cancelled, faculty remained committed to sharing students’ work by creating new models of celebrating student accomplishment.

In preparation for the return of in-person classes, we implemented a robust health and safety plan that included hourly studio cleaning, sanitization stations, reduced class sizes, health declarations, mandatory masks, and social distancing measures. By our Summer Session in July, we were ready to welcome students back into the studio while other programs were delivered outdoors or online.

For all programs and events, Arts Umbrella has continued to adapt and adhere to recommendations from the provincial health officer. While we look forward to returning to our studios in full force, we are grateful to our staff, students, and families for their patience and adaptability during this time. Through this crisis, we will emerge stronger and more resilient than before – with a full complement of distance learning tools at our disposal for the future.

Here are some initiatives we implemented to keep creativity thriving in the time of COVID-19:

Community Art Kits

Our Community programs between March and June were cancelled but we channeled those energies into delivering materials to those who needed it most. Generous support from Opus Art Supplies allowed us to compile hundreds of Community Art Kits, containing high-quality art materials for children and youth across Metro Vancouver.

Arts Umbrella at Home

A digital campaign, we launched Arts Umbrella at Home to provide young people with inspiration and ideas for creative at-home projects. Delivered on Instagram, #AUathome celebrated our instructors, offered prompts for families to participate in a creative activity, and shared their projects to our online community.

Arts Umbrella On Screen

With Arts Umbrella Dance Company’s live performances at Vancouver Playhouse in May cancelled, they too adapted to new ways of celebrating and presenting student work. Arts Umbrella On Screen brought a series of films, featuring an array of international choreography and dance styles, to an outdoor, socially-distanced audience on Granville Island.

The Garage

Our faculty made extraordinary efforts to allow program delivery to continue in spite of numerous challenges. A notable example was the Theatre, Music & Film department’s adaptation of an 8,000-square-foot parking garage to a space in which Musical Theatre classes could take place safely. In The Garage, fans and heaters provide constant fresh air to the space, mitigating aerosol spread of the virus and allowing our students to sing together, safely.


You can read more about the inspiring creative achievements of our staff and students in the past year in our full Annual Report for 2019/2020. Access it here (PDF).