The Rialto Center for the Arts uses livestreams to promote events

The Rialto Center has begun doing livestream series and collaborations with GSU TV. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Despite its silent halls, the Rialto Center for the Arts has rediscovered its voice through a different instrument: livestreams.

The Rialto Center was built in 1968 and is owned by Georgia State. It’s been silent since the beginning of quarantine.

However, Lee Foster, the Rialto Center’s executive director, said that the center would host various online music series in collaboration with GSUTV.

Lee Foster is a relatively new face at the Rialto Center. Georgia State appointed her last October to promote and fundraise for the Rialto Center.

Foster explained that, before quarantine, the Rialto Center’s priority was to connect with students.

“My job was to … create a season every year of performances to try to get the Rialto to interface with the rest of the campus more,” Foster said. “The Provost wanted me to [make the Rialto Center] more of an opportunity for students.”

Now, the executive director is working to keep the Rialto Center and Atlanta’s music scene as alive and engaged as before.

“What I was brought in for before COVID is way different from what I’m doing after COVID,” she said. “Four shows were canceled because of quarantine, [and] the last show we hosted [was by] Dee Dee Bridgewater.”

Dee Dee Bridgewater sang the national anthem for the second Democratic debate in 2019.

“It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen,” Foster said.

Last season’s performers included Gladys Knight, widely regarded as the “Empress of Soul,” and Terence Blanchard, a jazz trumpeter from New Orleans who worked on the score for the Golden Globe-nominated movie “BlacKkKlansman.”

“Last year was a great season, and I was so happy to be a part of it,” Foster said. 

Foster hoped to transform the Rialto Center into a makers’ space where one can just come in and play.

According to Foster, quarantine hit immediately after she introduced the makers’ space. Two days after Dee Dee Bridgewater’s performance, the Rialto Center had to close.

The pandemic added another challenge: having the funds to run and promote the Rialto Center.

Foster said the Rialto Center reached $5,000 in funds, partly from donations from a lot of people during State Day, which totaled $1,420.

“After March, when we were no longer able to do anything in the theater … we pivoted, and then we started streaming lots of different things,” Foster said.

One of these series is “Homegrown,” in which local artists send a tape of themselves playing music, and the Rialto Center plays it on a livestream. Another series, “Feed Your Senses,” allows students to listen to a livestreamed performance while eating lunch.

These livestreams have received thousands of unique visitors.

The Rialto Center, collaborating with GSUTV, hosts “Crucial Conversations,” in which a medley of speakers discuss issues in the community. In its latest episode, GSUPD Chief of Police and former APD deputy Joseph Spillane, spoke with two student activists about police brutality and rebuilding trust between civilians and police.

“We’re gonna be doing [these series] at least as long as COVID lasts,” Foster said.