Art News

Burlesque Performer Organizes Symbolic Burial for Artists' Pandemic Losses

Polka Dottie
LA Photographie
Polka Dottie
Denver burlesque performer and producer Melissa May, known by the stage name Polka Dottie, originally had a straightforward name for her upcoming event: "Colorado Artists: Let's Mourn the Opportunities Lost to COVID Together." Although she changed the name to Ghost Light, the event's message remains the same, and artists from around Colorado will gather at HQ on Monday, May 16, to showcase their art and have a symbolic burial for the artistic opportunities lost during the pandemic.

For many artists, those opportunities aren't coming back. “I had all this momentum going, all these things planned. And then it stopped," May reflects.

She says that during quarantine, her motivation and creativity came to a halt. It wasn't until two years later that her passion for art served as motivation to keep going after losing so much.

“After discussing this topic with several other artists, I realized that the world hasn’t made time or space for us to mourn what could have been, so I wanted to create that opportunity for those desiring closure,” May explains.

She began contacting artists across Colorado to partake in the event. She got the inspiration for the new name from ghost lights, the single bulbs that theaters use to light a stage when it is unoccupied. Ghost lights were also used as a symbol of hope during the lockdown.

Any type of artist is invited to join, from drag performers to painters, sculptors, actors, singers, dancers, tattoo artists and more. The artists are invited to share their losses in a eulogy of sorts, and to bring works to display. During the time artists will be given to speak, items will be shared, and explanations of their meaning will be presented. Being able to speak about these items out loud and share them with others will be a crucial part of the mourning and closure that May hopes to bring to artists with the event.

“Don’t take the arts for granted,” she says, urging the general public to help support artists during these hard times in any way possible. Whether through financial or promotional avenues, any amount of support counts.

"We stayed home, we stayed brave, and we kept the light on. But we never got closure. Let’s create it together,” May says.

Ghost Light, 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 16, at HQ, 60 South Broadway. Entry is free. For updates, follow @misspolkadottie on Instagram.