Our Upstate concert venues are hurting during this pandemic. Some, like the Radio Room and Gottrocks, have managed to reopen on a limited basis, but it’s because they have different revenue streams like alcohol sales and full menus.
Unfortunately, The Spinning Jenny in Greer doesn’t have those streams. The 650-capacity venue is event-specific, meaning that when they don’t have shows, they’re not open.
At least, that’s what it used to mean. Co-owners and sisters Sharon Murry and Sarah Betancourt have used their downtime to dream up some new ways to keep The Spinning Jenny going, and they may have created a model for other venues to follow in the process.
Instead of bands and cheering crowds, The Jenny will have children ages 8-17 taking art classes in a safe, socially distanced setting, starting in late August. Instead of bands playing in front of a huge audience, different artists will be demonstrating what they do and doing interviews for a virtual audience as part of an intimate spotlight series. And instead of people filing indoors to watch a concert together, they’ll be outside in the parking lot (and properly spaced) for themed Tuesday night events, with live music and a food truck.
In other words, Murry and Betancourt have decided to take a bad situation and find something positive in it.
“When we shut down, we went through all the stages of grief,” Murry says. “It wasn’t easy. But I had some close friends, family members and local business leaders who all really encouraged me and Sarah to completely rethink the way we were viewing this crisis. Instead of letting it take over and be the end all, how can you turn this around and make it work for you? That’s how it got started.”
With few (if any) concerts on the horizon, Murry and Betancourt reached out to their community to find different ways to bring people into The Spinning Jenny and to create some revenue.
“Since we can’t have concerts or private events, how can I work with people to make something different?” Murry says.
The first step in this new program starts in late August, when a group of local college professors will be conducting three-hour camp-style art classes for 20 children at a time until Dec. 15, for a fee of $50. There’s a virtual option for the classes, as well, and there’s also a playwriting class on Friday mornings for high schoolers.
“Because our space is so giant, we’re opening up to a limited number of students who will be taking these classes,” Murry says. “The people who will be teaching the arts classes want the arts to still be a part of people’s lives, and they wanted to do it safely.”
Then in October, The Jenny will launch a Tuesday night parking-lot event series.
“That came about from some artists who came to us and said they’d really like to do something in the evening,” Murry says. “They’re themed events, and we’re going to have music and a food truck, and we’re going to find a way to make wearing masks fun.”
Then there’s the series of online performances and demonstrations from artists and musicians that The Jenny has planned, filmed by several local production companies.
“We wanted to find a way to encourage them to still be creating their art right now,” she says, “so that when this is over, they’re going to be busting out with new material or they’ll have a new confidence in what they’re doing.”
Murry says that these ideas, all of which involve community outreach, have given her a more positive perspective during a difficult time.
“I’ve been through a myriad of emotions,” she says. “But I finally came to terms with that and thought, ‘I could stay in this moment, or I could flip it and say I’m going to take all of these emotions and use this energy to try to come up with something. I can’t rely on the way things were.’”
For more information, visit thespinningjennygreer.com or call 864-469-6416.