#PBSForTheArts celebrates the resiliency of the arts during COVID-19 pandemic

#PBSForTheArts celebrates the resiliency of the arts during COVID-19 pandemic
Jessie Buckley (Juliet), Lucian Msamati (Friar Laurence) and Josh O'Connor (Romeo) in Romeo & Juliet at the National Theatre. Photo by Rob Youngson.

As America’s home for the arts, PBS launches an expanded slate of multiplatform arts programming April 23

From the pressroom – On Wednesday, PBS and The WNET Group announced #PBSForTheArts, a multiplatform campaign that celebrates the resiliency of the arts in America during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and reopening.

Launching on all platforms April 23, the collection of #PBSForTheArts content will be available for broadcast on PBS (check local listings) and streaming on pbs.org/arts, the PBS Video app and the ALL ARTS website and app. Curated conversation and digital shorts will be available on PBS social media platforms using #PBSForTheArts.

#PBSForTheArts kicks off with new programming filmed within the constraints of the pandemic: Great Performances: “Romeo & Juliet” (April 23 at 9 p.m. Eastern), a contemporary rendering of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy from the National Theatre, where a company of actors in a shuttered theater brings to life the timeless tale of two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and hate; Great Performances: “The Arts Interrupted” (May 14 at 9 p.m. Eastern), a new documentary special featuring the survival stories of arts organizations across America; and the new three-part series “Inside the Met” (May 21 at 9 and 10 p.m. Eastern and May 28 at 9 p.m. Eastern), which goes behind the scenes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s struggle to survive amid the pandemic and its response to the urgent demands for social justice during its 150th anniversary.

As the campaign expands over the coming months, it will include new specials and original digital content from long-standing arts strands including Great Performances, American Masters and PBS Newshour’s “Canvas,” while PBS Digital Studios, The WNET Group and other award-winning PBS arts series will provide digital programming. PBS member stations will also contribute content to their local schedules that examine the resiliency of the arts and artists in their communities.

Exclusive #PBSForTheArts blogs, published on pbs.org/arts, will also spotlight the inspiring pandemic survival stories of artists across the country. From Broadway dancers and concert performers to classical musicians, visual artists and beyond, audiences will discover how these creative, resourceful artists have kept the arts vivid and vital during the pandemic, and learn about the projects they’re working on as the arts world gradually reopens.

“As we prepare for life post-COVID, it is so important that we come together to restore and revitalize the arts, which are central to the cultural health of our country,” Paula Kerger, PBS President and CEO, said. “Through this sweeping initiative, PBS and our member stations will showcase the resilient spirit of the arts and ensure that all Americans can continue to access extraordinary dance, theater and musical performances on public television.”

As PBS’s largest producer of arts programming for more than 50 years, The WNET Group will lead digital content production and PBS member station collaboration efforts nationwide. The WNET Group will gather and curate content from local musicians, actors, dancers and artists that represent the range, diversity and scope of the performing arts.

“In times of crisis, the arts have the ability to lift us up, bring us together and give us hope for a better tomorrow. We are pleased to partner with PBS to spotlight the resilience of performing arts organizations as we look forward to the return of live performances and an end to the pandemic,” Neal Shapiro, President and CEO of The WNET Group, said.

A schedule of the programs included in the #PBSForTheArts collection is below.

April 23

Great Performances: “Romeo & Juliet”

Experience a contemporary rendering of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy from the National Theatre, where a company of actors in a shuttered theater brings to life the timeless tale of two young lovers. The stylized film stars Golden Globe winner Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley.

May 7

Great Performances: “Uncle Vanya”

Anton Chekov’s “Uncle Vanya” comes to life in this Olivier Award-nominated West End production adapted by Conor McPherson. Recorded at London’s Harold Pinter Theater, the capture stars Toby Jones and Richard Armitage.

May 14

Great Performances: “The Arts Interrupted”

How have the arts been managing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Arts organizations across America share their survival stories, along with examples of innovative performances — from COVID-19-inspired theater to site-specific operas. Learn how the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have impacted America’s emerging artists.

May 14

“We Are Family: Songs of Hope and Unity”

Join the American Pops Orchestra (APO) Maestro Luke Frazier and a star-studded cast for an exciting evening of songs that bring audiences together. Filmed in front of a small, socially distanced live audience under strict COVID-19 mitigation procedures, the program features performances by “Crazy-Ex Girlfriend’s” Gabrielle Ruiz (joining APO from Los Angeles); “America’s Got Talent” vocalist Rayshun LaMarr; Broadway star and recording artist Morgan James; Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes; and celebrated recording artist Nova Payton. The concert is hosted by Emmy and Tony Award winner Judith Light.

May 21

“Inside the Met”

Go inside the Metropolitan Museum as it contends with the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for social justice.

May 28

“One Voice: The Songs We Share”

American Pops Orchestra celebrates American music in this new series. Hosted by Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, the episode “The Sacred” features church music adapted by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Aretha Franklin to be shared beyond the walls of the sanctuary. Hosted by Tony Award winner Jesse Mueller, the “Broadway” episode focuses on classic show tunes recorded by the Rat Pack, Johnny Mathis and other chart-topping artists of the time, as well as musical theater songs.


“Beyond the Canvas”

From PBS Newshour and hosted by Amna Nawaz, “Beyond the Canvas” showcases some of the nation’s leading cultural creators — musicians, playwrights, comedians and costume designers, among many others — who show how they turn their visions of the world into art. Topics to be examined include finding meaning in writing; what it takes to achieve excellence; trailblazing women in the arts; the power of music to honor the past and inspire the future; and the arts of Mexico.


“Sound Field”

As part of an ongoing arts content partnership with the classical arts organization the Cliburn, PBS Digital Studios and General Audience Programming will partner with Twin Cities PBS to produce two special episodes of the Webby-winning music education series “Sound Field” in May 2021. Beyond utilizing the Cliburn’s extensive library of concert performances, their roster of affiliated performers and their consultation on writing and research throughout these episodes, this collaboration will illustrate the goal of the #PBSForTheArts campaign to highlight the creative work being done by arts organizations at all levels throughout the country.

Nahre Sol, a touring pianist and classical composer and a co-host from season one of “Sound Field,” will return for the two episodes. These “Sound Field” episodes will showcase diversity in classical music.

This PBS press release has been slightly modified.

Top Image: Jessie Buckley (Juliet), Lucian Msamati (Friar Laurence) and Josh O'Connor (Romeo) in Romeo & Juliet at the National Theatre. Photo by Rob Youngson.