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

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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.

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