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Art comes to Roanoke City streets, with a little help from the CARES Act

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Friday night, Kirk Avenue was shut down in Roanoke, one more thing closed because of the pandemic.

But this closure was about opening up a whole new world.

Smack in the middle of the road, in front of Fortunato restaurant, four volunteers had erected a giant steel frame. And there, suspended 20 feet above the ground, was Lynsey Wyatt.

"It felt great," she said.

The acrobat and artist was dancing on aerial fabric. Wyatt twisted, spun and flipped, help up by nothing more than two long strips of cloth.

"I was super excited," said Wyatt.

Wyatt is the owner and sole employee of Cirqulation Aerial and Circus Arts, which teaches "flexibility, hand stands, inversions lots of fun stuff," according to Wyatt.

It's a business that has been touch and go since she started it, just before the pandemic hit.

"I wasn't working for the past six months, because I've been in transition, and trying to figure out how to get my business up online," she said.

Wyatt has started teaching individual classes again, but work has been scarce, and opportunities to share her art even scarcer.

"It's been really tough," she said. "I mean, the whole art form is at a tipping point as to whether our industry will survive as is."

That's what made Saturday night special. Wyatt performed three shows over the course of an hour and a half. Diners at Fortunato and passersby on the street stopped and watched. At one point, a group of kids gathered around and stared at the dancer, wide-eyed.

Wyatt isn't doing this on her own. The performance was done in concert with Fortunato, and made possible by a grant from the City of Roanoke. That grant is part of hundred of thousands of dollars distributed by the city to businesses, individuals, and arts and cultural groups, all paid for by money from the CARES Act.

"For me as an artist, and a small business owner, it provided some support during this challenging time," said Wyatt.

The grant is a lifeline that, for Wyatt, is nearly as important as the fabric she's hanging from.

"What I care the most about is just creating that sense of community and joy," she said.

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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