Silver Linings: San Antonio’s arts community weighs in on the positive side effects of quarantine

In mid-December, we traditionally reach out to the movers and shakers of San Antonio’s arts community to collect perspectives on the “best” or most memorable happenings of the year.

With 2020 essentially nullifying that concept, we instead asked them to share any silver linings they found in the pandemic’s dark cloud.

Evidenced by the dreaded term “pandemic fatigue,” it’s clear that most of us have become hyper-aware of the grim realities of 2020. Beyond the unfathomable loss of human life, COVID-19 has devastated every aspect of the arts — from communities and institutions to individuals and the creative opportunities that keep them afloat. As we transition into a hopefully brighter 2021, what do you count among the positive takeaways of 2020? How did you adapt? What surprised you? Who impressed you? How did you channel your anxiety? What did you learn?

click to enlarge COURTESY OF ANGELA FOX
Courtesy of Angela Fox
Angela Fox, artist and educator
My positive takeaway from 2020 was to prioritize compassion and gratitude in my professional and personal life. I was really lucky to be able to teach both face-to-face and remotely — my students kept me grounded and work was a welcome escape. I don’t think I’ll take human connections for granted moving forward and I’m in a space where I’m counting my blessings. I tried to keep busy in the studio as well, but I’m learning to channel my anxiety by focusing on things that don’t feel directly related to my studio practice. So the best thing I did in quarantine was take classes online about subjects that interested me. I took a four-week course combining Carl Jung, collage and self-excavation exercises, and it felt really therapeutic to work in an unfamiliar medium and alongside people all over the world. I was blown away — in that class and in my own classes — at the complexities of everyone’s lives and how brave and vulnerable we all are on a day-to-day basis.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF SLAB CINEMA
Courtesy of Slab Cinema
Angela Martinez, co-founder of Slab Cinema
To me, the 2020 Word of the Year is “pivot,” and what’s impressed me is how many of us were able to pivot as we adapted to changing circumstances.

One good thing that happened for Slab Cinema this year is we did a 180 turn from where we were in 2019 (big screenings of popular titles) to something that closely resembled us when we started in 2004 — intimate screenings of arthouse films spanning multiple genres and decades. It was liberating to no longer worry whether our film selections had mass appeal.

At the same time, we also started offering actual drive-in experiences with sound transmitted over the radio. We’d always wanted to do this, but there was never a real demand to force us to learn how to make it happen.

click to enlarge Ed Saavedra, Beast - COURTESY OF ED SAAVEDRA
Courtesy of Ed Saavedra
Ed Saavedra, Beast
Ed Saavedra, artist and “senior creative co-conspirator” at FL!GHT Gallery
My top positive takeaways of 2020:

More people than ever realize the importance of having healthcare for all, and the stupidity of attaching “coverage” to employment.

More people than ever know the opposite is true when a politician or pundit says that “we can’t afford” something so basic.

More people than ever realize neither major party cares if they get kicked out of their homes for Christmas.

More of us artists realize we aren’t nearly as important or special as we would have collecting institutions believe.

More people and institutions have been exposed to the ugly realities of modern policing, its colonial origins (Irish Constabulary), its formative time in slave economies (Charleston City Guard) and alternative solutions that don’t “reproduce inequality along race and class lines.”

One of my paintings created with these thoughts in mind (way back in 2012) joined the extraordinary permanent collection of the McNay Art Museum a few weeks ago!

I have adapted more easily than most, because I can always use more alone time in the studio.

I was very surprised by the nationwide lockdowns. I was also surprised to make it into the McNay’s permanent collection before my 41st birthday.

David Salinas impressed me (no surprise) with his blockbuster “Dear San Antonio” exhibition at FL!GHT (on view through January 2021). Those pieces definitely belong in a museum. Louie Preciado’s “virtual tours” of recent FL!GHT shows are amazing!

Courtesy of Elyse A. Gonzales
Elyse A. Gonzales, director of Ruby City
On both the professional and personal fronts I’ve found many reasons for feeling grateful and appreciative of this strange and scary moment.

As devastating as this year has been, I’m truly excited to have seen the larger, nationwide (even European) art community demand equity and representation for BIPOC artists and workers in our field. It’s been incredible to see the level of effort put forth by many institutions, large and small, working for a better cultural arts community. Addressing these hard conversations and questions will only add to our sector’s value among society at large because it means we’re reflecting widespread cultural conversations and remaining relevant. I know not everything will be perfect in 2021 but I have so much hope about what we are witnessing on a daily basis.

I’m also completely impressed and appreciative of how the board and staff at Ruby City welcomed me at this crazy moment. Our board members, Kathryn Kanjo, Isaac Julien and Laura Wright, continually demonstrate a deep, ethical commitment to doing what’s right for Ruby City, the staff, artists, even our larger arts community at this unprecedented time. I’m doubly impressed by how staff transitioned to a work-remote situation. It’s been wonderful to see this accomplished group of individuals, from senior to more junior staff, thinking/reacting in such a nimble and creative manner. Even our frontline staff have transitioned to helping us with digitizing and updating our collections database, as well as producing online, virtual content through their design, written, filmed and photographic contributions. Ruby City remains “accessible” and relevant through this meaningful online content.

I’m also deeply appreciative and awed by the whole of San Antonio’s cultural arts sector. I cold-called many curators and directors at different times asking to meet via Zoom or seeking input and EVERY single one of them responded with generosity and graciousness. I can’t name them all but Paula Owen, Rich Aste, Marise McDermott and Jon Hinojosa were among the first and most frequently contacted colleagues. I couldn’t be happier to be in such a creative and welcoming city.

On a personal note, I suppose I’m surprised by myself, that I didn’t go batty without a busy social schedule, something that I have seen as integral to my life. I’ve appreciated being able to spend time more quietly, with my thoughts, taking walks. This has helped make all the moments I spend with others, namely my husband and family, so much more meaningful. Even my happy hour Zoom moments with pals is precious and I feel much more connected to them. Don’t get me wrong, I am still dying to flit around town and all over the country to see art, meet artists/colleagues and see friends but I now see how more quiet time and these other means of connecting (Zoom, phone calls, even letters!) help engender a deep sense of fulfillment too. Finally, I guess I’m impressed by my amazing, loving husband. We moved, I started a new job, the pandemic hit, he spent time looking for and securing a job and we’ve been caring for our parents. Throughout it all we’ve been quarantining together and it’s great! I am so grateful to have such a caring, smart, responsible individual to share my days with throughout this time.

Courtesy of Gary Sweeney
Gary Sweeney, artist
Bryan Rindfuss recently asked me to share my positive takeaways of 2020, and I’d like to give them, with the understanding that there are many of my friends in the San Antonio arts community who are not as fortunate, and I see better days ahead for us.

Being the obnoxiously social person that I am, the biggest surprise to me was how utterly content I was during the initial shutdown. I felt guilty because my otherwise busy schedule was suddenly swiped clean, and I was freed from ANY obligations I’d committed to. There was a liberating aspect to it, and I thought, “Well, now I can learn Spanish, or fine-tune my cooking skills, or learn to draw like Vincent Valdez.” First, though, I committed to revisiting about 10 unfinished pieces of artwork that, for various reasons, were collecting dust in my studio, in various stages of completion. I forced myself to try some new things, and can report that I’m happy with maybe four of them. What I also learned from this is that, without a deadline, my work habits have slowed down to a crawl.

But I am very good at entertaining myself. So, along with viewing every worthwhile movie and TV series, I’ve actually read some books, which is a pleasure I’ve never made time for.

Although my empathy level is very high, I can’t really say I’ve been anxious. I think being retired allows a person to establish an identity outside of a career, so it was good training for the lockdown. But I just can’t believe we’ve just spent almost a year of our lives on hold.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF GINGER DIAZ
Courtesy of Ginger Diaz
Ginger Diaz, co-owner of Feliz Modern
The jarring experiences of 2020 shined a spotlight on what is actually important in life (connection) and the unimportant stuff became glaringly unimportant. Laughably unimportant. Which was freeing. As someone with anxiety, it seemed to decrease because planning was useless and we just had to take each day’s new challenges one day at a time just like everyone else who was trying to stay afloat. It focused our attention on the actual big things, like forging connection with loved ones within the limitations, appreciating times spent together and prioritizing it more for the future. It tightened our circle of friends as we needed each other’s support more than ever. As far as the business goes, we got to experience making it work on bare bones like we did in the beginning, and it bonded us and our kids, who had to pitch in and help. And then when our employees were able to come back, their heart for creative problem-solving inspired us. We not only felt the need to keep it going for ourselves, but the employees, artists and makers who also are paid by the selling of their items in the shop. It reminded us of why we started all this in the first place, to bring art and joy into people’s homes and celebrations. And what we found is that people are still celebrating art and life with each other in new and more intimate ways.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF JUSTIN BOYD
Courtesy of Justin Boyd
Justin Boyd, artist and educator
It is hard not to start with a heartfelt acknowledgement to the families who have lost someone this year. Whether to COVID, immigration policies, war, police, natural disasters or natural causes. This year has reminded me just how fragile we are, how similarly we grieve and just how much we all need comforting. On to the more personal stuff: As an educator at Southwest School of Art, there were many positives to take away this year. The first being we were able to have our studio classes in person this fall. Due to the size of our enrollment, the spaciousness of the facilities, and safety precautions put in place, we were able to maintain a safe environment to conduct classes in. Amazingly we didn’t have one on-campus COVID case this semester! Super thankful for that. Being in the classroom teaching and seeing students work in the studios really helped to remind me that art and creativity can help to peel away some of the stress and anxiety this year has layered on. Other notes of positivity: I love Facetiming/Zooming with friends and family more than I ever expected. So much more rad than a phone call and way more meaningful than a text. I welcomed the pairing down of things to do and places to go. It was really nice to clear away some of the noise and focus on friends and family. The extra time allowed me to finish a record I’ve been working on, record a new record with Garrett T. Capps & Nasa Country, talk to family more, and fall in love again with British TV shows! I think my overall takeaway from this year will be one of gratitude and thankfulness. This year has been especially good at highlighting what is important, something I needed for sure. Here is to a cracking 2021!

click to enlarge BRYAN RINDFUSS
Bryan Rindfuss
Justin Korver, artist and educator
Let’s be honest, 2020 was a traumatic dumpster fire that, if all was going well, was stir crazy. I can’t wait for the day when we can all safely gather together again. I know that even while socially distant I don’t want to be isolated in the studio, in the classroom, or from our amazing communities. We all had to find new ways to feel close while maintaining CDC-recommended guidelines. I would have despaired of loneliness if it wasn’t for artists and creatives like Alyssa Danna, Lee Peterson, Brittany Ham, Megan Harrison, Martha Saywell, Adrianna Santos, Kate Gillen, Sarah Fox, Leslie Moody Castro, Nina Hassele, Kallie Cheves and, most of all, my partner Alyssa Richards. There is, of course, a much longer list of people I should thank and if you’re on that list please forgive me.

If you’re lucky enough to be isolated in comfort, please get creative and find ways you can support the arts. It’s essential that we remember the nourishment and joy that the arts continue to bring us. We’re all working together to try to preserve human lives but let’s also remember to make each other’s lives worth living. I believe so much in what we can do together and the support I’ve felt in the past year makes me hopeful for the changes coming in 2021.

click to enlarge LUPITO'S PHOTOGRAPHY
Lupito's Photography
Marisela Barrera, writer and performer
2020 gave us un chingo de chingazos pero like here’s a positive for artists: Individual Artists are back on the City of San Antonio funding slate: “Up to 16 grants at $5,000 each” is not everything we wanted, but it’s a start and I’ll take it as a win for the art community. The grant amount limits the scale of projects, but we are resilient, will turn out some badass projects, and hopefully underserved sectors of the city see some art. I hope we see a fair spread between disciplines and performing artists are well represented. Let’s create! Let’s surround COSA with piles and files of applications from individual artists so they know we invest in our city when our city invests in us.

Positives for me: dental work! I avoided it like the plague for decades until the plague actually arrived. Instead of getting a boob lift, I got a gum lift, a root canal and a crown. I turn 50 in 2021 and I’m embracing my age. Restyled my hair with a Tejana mullet featuring all my lovely canas. Canas con ganas, gente. Both my teen daughter and I have been Zooming since March. More time together means she can bug me for a pinche chai tea latte all school-day long. I am learning to center humor to help me cope with such a devastating year. Loss of family, friends, work, connection. I am reminded that dark needs light. As we say in teatro, find your light!

To find my own light, I need to keep creating. Zoom’s been the tool for 2020, and I was fortunate to adapt my teatro practice. My performative memoir Tejana Rasquacha was refitted for streaming in July and I think we were able to embrace the intimacy of live teatro by having both prerecorded and live segments plus an audience in the Zoom room in the mood to interact. I also acted in a physically distanced outdoor play at the Tobin in October. We were directed by Canadian creators Zooming from Vancouver and sustained a safe three-week run during a pandemic! Before the plague, I would’ve never dreamt I’d be cast as a middle-aged white man at the Tobin! LMAO. We offered a land acknowledgement before each performance, a practice of honoring ancestors that I plan to continue when live theater returns en fuerte. And it will.

Teatro will return en fuerte because storytelling around the fire is an ancient practice of connecting with community. I imagine audiences rediscovering the arts after all this pedo-wato passes and it is safe to be together. A new renaissance is developing, and I’m here for it.

My theme for the new year is self-publication. I’m working on a new play about the Flores Magón brothers, activist/publishers during the Mexican Revolution, a story viewed through the lens of a Chicana zinester. I have two book-length manuscripts myself and plan to self-publish one in 2021. Submitting for publication is a pain in the ass because submitting takes more energy than the actual writing of the piece, so fuck it. I’ll print it. I’m also editing a collection of memoirs for Teatro Esperanza, part of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. We’re a circle of writers and performers meeting via Zoom, telling stories and writing them down. We’ll also adapt for broadcast for Radio Esperanza, their low-power station. Boom. Why wait for acceptance?

I am digging our San Antonio artists who are self-publishing and finding their light during these dark times. Anthony the Poet, for instance, is rocking out self-publishing by creating cards and hand-written poems. Another chingona is Alyson Alonzo, a vocalist and songwriter who was taking song-writing commissions. DJ Despeinada who makes some cool match-merch and creates safe outdoor music experiences. The brightest light in all this, S.T. Shimi (qepd). I’ll think of her often as a trailblazing badass. Performance artists and writers who create opportunities for their audience to invest in their work are my inspiration. I see you! All y’all finding your light!

click to enlarge JOSH HUSKIN
Josh Huskin
Mark Menjivar, artist and educator
This has definitely been a year of unknowns and shifts. For me the pandemic cancelled nine exhibitions, talks or residencies that had been planned for 2020. There was disappointment at first that was short-lived as the immensity of the pandemic came into focus. As my family and I began to find new normals, I realized that I had an opportunity to be intentional about what I was going to commit myself to. I have found myself considering each yes more carefully. The pandemic has made me more fully realize that for every yes, there is a no. And for every no, there is a yes.

I’m lucky because my practice is often participatory and that has allowed me to create meaningful interactions in the virtual environment. I have been surprised by the level of connection I’ve been able to have over a screen.

YouTube / Blue Star Contemporary
Mary Heathcott, executive director of Blue Star Contemporary
I was not surprised that arts organizations proved themselves to be nimble in new ways to meet the unimaginable challenges of this year. After all, creativity is at the heart of all problem-solving, and it’s what we do best. For BSC, this meant finding new ways to connect with our education audience, provide support for artists in our community and raise money to support BSC’s operation. Long-running programs and traditions took new life online: our MOSAIC Student Artist Program went digital with students meeting daily for studio class via Zoom, creating a body of work exhibited online, “Quarantine Diaries,” and utilizing new tools like iPads and Apple Pencils. Likewise, our Creative Classrooms program offered instruction for students via pre-recorded videos by Artist-in-Community Sarah Fox and downloadable curriculum. Our 30th Annual Red Dot offered an inaugural augmented reality experience of the 131 artists included in the fundraiser, allowing more people to access Red Dot than ever before.

What has really been a bright spot has been the establishment of new and growing partnerships and collaborations. Nonprofits are relational and collaborative at their core, and there has been no better time to band together to see our community through our challenging reality. In the spring, more than 40 arts and culture organizations formed CAUSA (Culture and Art Unity for San Antonio, With our tagline of Go. Give. Advocate. we are working together more closely than ever before to ensure our city’s creative industry survives. Together, we have been working on awareness and advocacy campaigns to help ensure support for our collective arts and culture organizations during a time it’s needed most.

BSC has formed new partnerships with the San Antonio Food Bank and University Health. Knowing that so many of our community members do not have direct access to the internet, we strove to identify new partners that could help get our Creative Classroom curriculum in the hands of youth who may not be able to access the material online. San Antonio Food Bank now distributes our curriculum at community centers along with food distribution. Additionally, motivated by art’s capacity to help communities heal, we are delighted to work with University Health on additional art programs for their staff recharge rooms throughout their Medical Center hospital. We’re happy to partner with University Health’s Salud Arte: Art of Healing program to support the frontline healthcare workers in this new way.

When looking back on 2020, I am proud of San Antonio, our arts and culture organizations, and artists for coming together and supporting each other. I think it speaks volumes of the type of supportive community we have in our hometown — one where an individual artist like Ethel Shipton mounts small community-driven “Free for the Taking” food distribution sites to help feed people in need, and one where organizations come together collectively to advocate in support of each other as is happening with CAUSA. We are certainly not through it yet, but I think the impact of our collectivity will resonate in powerful ways for years to come.

click to enlarge CHRIS CASTILLO
Chris Castillo
Riley Robinson, director of Artpace
Artpace had plans for an amazing year to celebrate our 25th [anniversary]; three curators choosing three artists each to make new artwork, series of exhibitions in the Hudson Showroom to highlight our impressive history, and our first book in 10 years to honor the residency program. Then COVID-19 hit and the shutdown. Our mission-driven staff made a pivot on that day and continued to look for and provide new opportunities to artists, and to San Antonio, and beyond. [We offered] three-dimensional virtual walk-throughs for the exhibitions, a special version of Chalk It Up spread out around the city, free wireless to anyone near our facility, and we published Artpace At 25, a 272-page book chronicling over 100 artists with essays from leading curators. The staff and board work together — more closely than ever — to keep providing a global art experience.

Courtesy of Nina Hassele
Roberta “Nina” Hassele, executive director of Contemporary Art Month
As you know, Contemporary Art month ended midway through with Second Saturday as the last official [in-person] art happening that month as we soon walked into our first shutdown. I was devastated as artists called me asking, “What do we do? Do we have our openings? Do we take down our shows?” It was heartbreaking to say, “Yes, we have to hit pause,” encouraging them to go virtual where and when possible. Since March I have purchased — all online or through photos shared — 58 pieces of art from 18 artists. With the exception of four living in Austin, Houston, Harlingen and Chicago, 14 artists live in San Antonio. I have added to my collection pottery, textiles, photography, paintings, ceramics, prints, fiber art, watercolor and [have] a new-found passion for sculptors. I don’t have a lot of money but when I can I buy art over clothes or shoes, sometimes even putting off much-needed dental work or getting my knee injections that cost me a fortune. Art, as you know, makes me happy.

Today I was excited to have two pieces of art purchased online from local artists hand-delivered by both on my porch. I have always seen art as a form of healing since I was a child and stumbled into the Brooklyn Museum on a PS 109 school trip. I believe art builds stronger communities, it allows us not to just understand ourselves but to understand each other on a deeper level. Though the COVID-19 crisis has severely impacted the artistic community, the spirit of human connection and upliftment through the arts remains. I see our San Antonio art community finding creative ways to keep people connected during a pandemic that keeps us apart, swapping real-time space for virtual ones, sharing through social media, by-appointment-only [visits], murals and public art. I tell people If you are able, donate to the arts — no amount is too small. If you are spending time looking at your empty walls during quarantine, this is a great time to commission an artist, participate in an online art class, buy work directly from an artist online, gift art, attend exhibits and openings online, get in your car, bike or walk and enjoy all of our new and old public art and murals. What we need is a bottom-up, all-hands-on-deck effort to save our artistic and creative community, and we need it now.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF SARAH FISCH
Courtesy of Sarah Fisch
Sarah Fisch, writer and comic
I just went back to standup in a dedicated way about two years ago, and I’d been spending time in Los Angeles performing and getting a set together when it hit.

Most comics I know are in withdrawal — not just from a professional standpoint, not knowing when live shows will re-commence, and which venues will survive — but if you’re used to a live audience, Zoom comedy is hugely frustrating. You don’t get the energy or attention of a live audience, plus the little glitches and delays in reaction make it hard to figure out which jokes are really hitting, how long to pause for a laugh line, whether you’re completely bombing or if people just have their mics muted.

You know how weird it is to watch Seth Myers with no audience? It’s even worse performing without one.

There are comics and performers who’ve done great work via Zoom and Instagram, though. Tori Pool and Larry Garza are unstoppable, their posts and IG stories make me laugh — Tori’s character bits and how she uses the medium are beyond. I can’t wait to go see them again in person when things open up.

And Marisela Barrera used Zoom live from her porch along with pre-recorded videos brilliantly in Tejana Rasquacha. I would have watched that another 10 times.

A few months into quarantine, in order to ward off anxiety and depression, I started learning Russian. I was already using Duolingo to brush up on my dwindling Spanish, but I got curious about how hard it would be to play with a language I had no knowledge of whatsoever.

And Russian has always intrigued me. I guess being a Cold War era kid, it seems like this forbidden and mysterious language. And I’ve always liked Russian literature, ever since high school. I was in The Cherry Orchard at the Classic Theatre almost two years ago, too. So I set myself this arbitrary goal of being able to read Chekhov in the original Russian at some point before I die.

It turned out to have been a good choice, because Russian is just incredibly difficult. So difficult, in fact, that between memorizing and using Cyrillic alphabet, the absolutely bizarre verb cases, and the insanely tricky pronunciation, it’s impossible to think about anything else while you’re working at it. So I’ve spent a couple of hours every day for months learning Russian. On Duolingo it’s fun, too, because it’s game-ified enough so you feel like you’re advancing even if it’s taken you three weeks just to get through one lesson.

I have three real-world friends who are Russian speakers, and I’ve taken to texting them impromptu poems. Lists of animal names, things like that. This is probably more fun for me than for them.

In addition to the lessons, there are chat rooms in Russian that you can sign up for. They are mediated by Russian speakers, and it’s people from all over the globe speaking (typing, usually) in halting Russian. It’s a hoot. Nobody’s accusing anyone of undermining American democracy, people tend to keep it light, especially now. “Do you have a cat?” “I like to cook noodles for breakfast.”

This led me down a rabbit hole of watching Russian movies and TV shows. It’s exciting — a character will say something basic like “where’s the train station” and I’m just beaming.

The Criterion channel has a lot of Soviet-era filmmakers; Tarkovsky, Klimov, Eisenstein. Larisa Shepitko is an underrated genius — underrated in the U.S., anyway. An added benefit of her films are that they are set in World War II. It’s really hard to feel sorry for yourself watching what Soviet partisans were up against.

Weirdly, all this Russian mind-expansion and movie-watching has me working on my first screenplay. It’s like the disorientation of doing something badly freed me up creatively, if that makes sense.

I hasten to add that I do not speak or understand Russian anywhere near being able to read Chekhov. I might be able to have a conversation with a five-year-old about their day. But they’d have to take it slow. And I can bust out some of my favorite nonsensical questions that Duolingo has taught me, like

Ты знаешь эту курицу? (Do you know this chicken?)


Почему твоя лошадь в метро? (Why is your horse on the subway?)

click to enlarge Sarah Fox, What a Fucking Mess - COURTESY OF SARAH FOX
Courtesy of Sarah Fox
Sarah Fox, What a Fucking Mess
Sarah Fox, artist
I think the main positive I had artistically was feeling a lot of support from my community. The year was very difficult financially, on top of everything else. But I had so many people reach out and ask to buy a collage, commission some prints, take a workshop, offer me a gig, buy a patch. It helped me keep my head above water. 2020 has been an awful year for the arts, but the art community in SA is still here, doing the best we all can to help each other out whenever we have the means to. I’ve been impressed with artists who are using their creativity and skills to make small things people can buy for their homes, share with their families, and help support themselves and the people they care about. Kallie Cheves self-published a children’s book about keeping safe during COVID. Tim Olsen is making beautiful hand-drawn ornaments for folks. Lata Gedala is making delicate paper cards and ornaments with her son. Jose Sotelo has a great shop with prints, mugs and shirts. Callie Luhrman has made joyful plates and bowls. Working artists and their resilience have impressed me. Personally, the pandemic has made me slow way down. I’ve been doing a lot of embroidery. It’s calms me down, keeps my hands busy [and] is easy enough to work on in a small space with a toddler. I’ve been reading a lot about the history of embroidery. I don’t think I would have ever allowed myself to explore the medium in such depth during more normal times. I’ve learned how better to be alone with myself and enjoy my own company. But, I will enthusiastically welcome the creative, joyful chaos of being around other creatives in the New Year.

Courtesy of Victoria Suescum
Victoria Suescum, artist and educator
2020 gave me the gift of time. In the future I want to stay at home a lot more. Positive changes took place abruptly: remote work eliminated a gruesome commute.

Many activities moved online and made opportunities available that in person would have been impossible. I have been interviewed in Panama twice (Creative Mornings and Personal Upgrade Academy). I was invited to lead Latina high school students in a project called Brilla based in Connecticut. I talked about the show of my work at the McNay Art Museum to the Rochester Wellesley Club.

I think I am less nervous talking to strangers online than in person. I love being in the safety of my studio. The ease of engaging with people online led to wonderful meetups with vibrant people new to me: yourself, Christina Frasier (an anthropologist who uses vernacular painting in her study of gentrification), Dr. Orlando Hernandez Ying (Houston-based curator from Panama), Lucia Abramovich (Associate Curator of Latin American Art at SAMA), Omar Gallaga (contributing writer to Texas Highways and Pulse), Veronica Buruyides (Director, Creative Mornings-Panama), Juan David Guardia (Director, Personal Upgrade Academy) and Ana Teresa Moreno (Director, Mateo Sariel Gallery, Panama).

There was no in-person opening to the exhibit of my work at the McNay, but Lucia Abramovich, Lyle Williams and I participated on a joint panel to celebrate the re-opening of the Popular Art Galleries at SAMA and my show at the McNay.

Instead of hosting a talk with Lyle Williams, Curator of Collections, the McNay produced a strong five-minute video about my work which will outlast the exhibit. I wasn’t able to go to exhibits, instead I cultivated my Instagram and Facebook presence which reaches a wider audience.

It was a huge struggle to teach three studio courses online but for every con there is a pro. I was surprised by the strength of the bonds that emerged among my students and myself.
Mariaelena Arocha
Yadhira Lozano, executive director of Luminaria and San Antonio Arts Commissioner for Council District 3
2020 has been a period of introspection and spiritual growth for myself. We were forced to slow down and I turned to music, books, film and online performances. During difficult times, it’s the artists that keep us sane. They put into words what we are unable to vocalize and take us to another time and place through film, poetry, song and theater. We live in one of the most creative and artistic cities and our creative community has responded to the pandemic by continuing to create. Necessity is the mother of invention and we had to figure out how to stay connected, how to continue to be inspired and feel that sense of community. In turn, going virtual opened up the rest of the world to us. We were able to connect in real time with other artists across the country. We were no longer racing across town, rushing to squeeze in lunch or hastily changing outfits for an evening out. All of a sudden, events happening across the country were available and accessible from the comfort of home. I hope we can continue this level of dialog and collaboration in 2021. There is less demand on our physical presence and more time to expand our minds and focus on creativity. I believe we will come out of this with a whole new perspective on life. We will appreciate each other more, and the art scene will explode with everything the artists have been working on during this time. I can’t wait to see it all!

Some of the people and events I enjoyed: Jesse Borrego, Benjamin Bratt and Peter Bratt; Voices de la Luna writing workshops; Centro Cultural Aztlan artist interviews; Luminaria Works-in-Process Fall Series; Los Lobos online concert; Obatala conference featuring cooking, music and history; Ozomatli Instagram lives; Friday night Zoom calls with fellow music lovers from across the world; African American Film Festival Atlanta; the OC Film Fiesta; and many others.

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