COVID-19 & Sheltering/Working in the Art Studio
How it went down…
On March 13th, 2020 my school district extended Spring Break for a week to figure out the next move during this impending health emergency. On the 20th the City of San Antonio announced the sheltering in place order for all San Antonians and non-essential businesses. On the 27th Bexar county followed suit with a similar shelter in place order effective for all residents of the county. The global spread of COVID-19 had been in the news but seemed overshadowed by the tragic death of Koby Bryant amongst other trending pendejadas from our politicians. Shortly before Spring Break Lackland airbase in San Antonio received American evacuees from the cruise ship that had been infected.
As luck would have it, one of the evacuees was released early while still ill but not showing symptoms. She made a b-line to North Star Mall, went shopping for 3 hours and ate at the food court. This snafu required the mall to be shut down for 24 hours to get it disinfected. Apparently this was not the beginning of the spread but instead travelers coming back home to San Antonio unknowingly began to spread the virus to people they came in contact with. What was to come has put many of my projects on hold, affected all of my arts community friends and peers and required me to restructure what I do and how I do as an artist and educator.
BC & AC…in the studio and the classroom.
The SATX shelter in place order marks the date on my calendar as “Before COVID-19 and After COVID-19”. I transitioned from a weekly brick and mortar art class to a virtual office set in a corner window overlooking the studio grounds at a kitchen table. Here I sit with my I-pad and class notes folder aware of how the jump into distance learning proves that the internet is a utility. It also reminds me how we must practice compassion and equity in the way that we handle ourselves as educators. More importantly, now more than ever, as students of these times we must practice resourcefulness and flexibility.
My new workstation has taken some getting used to because I share work studios with Kim Bishop —usually I’m at school teaching and her MFA program has gone to distance learning too. This includes figuring out how to mitigate sound levels of competing google/zoom meetings, making sure not to show up as the keister bunny in each other’s meetings and trying not to respond out loud to the meetings I'm not a part of but I can’t help but overhear. This change of pace seems to strangely resemble a sit-com, the kind you watch because of the unusual resemblance to the absurd reality that we are experiencing. That rhythm also has me brimming with ideas and possibilities for work during these historic times.
Where to next?
The outlook for the next couple of months is unpredictable to say the least. The loss of jobs in our service oriented sector alone has been shocking. It was foreshadowed with all the people that work at North Star Mall losing a 24 hours block of work so that it could be thoroughly sanitized. The construction sector is still kicking hard and following a health protocol—I see that on my daily walks around Jefferson HS. I do not miss my morning commute to school on I-10 but the way I see it the education sector is moving forward. Colleges and universities are figuring out what to do. The financial disparity evident with the preparedness levels for distance learning of school districts in San Antonio demands attention to the need for a more equitable solution to school funding at the state legislative level. Another very important revelation is the importance of parent participation in the education of children as there are still high percentages of students that are not connecting online even though they can.
The visual and performing arts community in San Antonio has been devastated. But it can recover that much better for it if we act as a community of constituents and put into motion an alternate way to fund the Department of Arts and Culture that is not tied to the Hotel Occupancy Tax. These days the resiliency of San Antonio as a whole is being tested and I find that times like these require forward thinking and our community deserves no less than that. Acting locally has not been able to stop the wall of sludge coming down from the top of the mountain. America faces one of those problems that must be addressed from the top down like when that football team owner fired the head coach and the rest of the coaches all the way down for having a crappy season. It’s about accountability and doing the right thing for la gente.
What does the landing look like?
As I consider the future of this COVID-19 pandemic scenario I’m focusing on getting rhythm like the Johnny Cash song says. It’s about the long game and I’ve been following a schedule where I address my body, mind and spirit. I begin early in the morning with my cup of coffee and meet with my art team from Clark HS. The contingency plan for this distance learning during a pandemic, unlike the regular school shooting lock down drills that we practice at school, has not been written yet so we proceed with compassion, resourcefulness and flexibility. Sometimes I even meet outside while I hang out with my studio coworker-Pumpkin. I have taken on some serious home farming on the studio grounds as well as a daily yoga schedule that is refreshing and stress relieving—my abs are benefiting from this yoga.
The future of scheduled projects like Project:MASA IV, the Cosmic Couture Workshops at Blue Star Contemporary and the NYFA Immigrant Artist Mentorship Round 2 Exhibit has been put on hold. I am exploring, documenting, practicing and reflecting on the new normal in the community. I am keeping in touch with my artist community near and far and still making art even though everything is shaking down. I recently participated in a virtual studio tour of my studio that was organized by Dr. Ellen Riojas Clark—she is doing this on a weekly basis and collecting these for primary source value and publishing after we get through the pandemic. These are a fresh look at artists and seem to be trending on social media-I can't wait to see the next artist. For now I have decided to continue documenting, posting and sharing my progress while working in the studio during a pandemic...