Creatives Face Challenges Amid The Age Of COVID-19

By Tom Maxedon
Published: Wednesday, April 8, 2020 - 5:05am
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020 - 7:49am

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As we hunker down amid the coronavirus pandemic, creatives in are facing tough times, too.

Educational workshops don’t have people populating them, per se.

Performances are postponed. And open mics have been dropped. 

But many teachers, writers and spoken word artists are turning to technology to gigify their musings while trying to thrive in the age of COVID-19.  

John Roche
Jules Nyquist is a poet and teacher. She also operates Poetry Playhouse in Placitas, New Mexico.

Writers are used to word counts.   

Most aren't used to body counts. 

As creatives and teachers find themselves social distancing with the rest of us, many are switching to social media to try and turn a buck — or at least stay in digital contact with audiences they usually connect to in person.  

Jules Nyquist is a poet, writing instructor and open mic host from Placitas, New Mexico. While she’s used to telecommuting for her teaching job, open mic cancellations at brick and mortar venues are cramping her poetic comradery.

"Albuquerque and Santa Fe, it’s an amazing poetry community here, and the poets have really stepped up. It’s a lot like family. They’re the ones who keep us going,” she said. "We’re looking to keep our open mics going. We had one at this brewery that, of course, now is not going to happen. We’re going to try it online and have featured poets. But, it’s also kind of nice now because anyone can join in."

For authors who rely on discussions at bookstores, it’s tough to tour in today’s viral climate.

Kitty Felde
Kitty Felde is host of the children's literature podcast, "Book Club for Kids," and is author of "Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza."

Kitty Felde, former long-time NPR reporter turned children’s literature podcaster, is helping kids cope in the age of COVID-19 with a performance of their own.  

Felde hosts “Book Club for Kids” and is author of the children's book, "Welcome to Washington, Fina Mendoza."

Recently, she was forced to cancel a taping of the podcast at a popular Valley bookseller. "I’ve been reaching out to schools, libraries and parents who are at home stuck with their kids looking for something interesting to do. And every one of those kids can be a podcast star from their living room."

Another downside of cancelling her trip to the Phoenix area? She didn't get taken out to the ballgame, either. "I was going to see Dodger baseball, and I had a book signing. Those things got canceled, and that’s kind of been the modus operandi," said Felde. 

But, some are ahead of the coronavirus curve ball, and have been well before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Caress Russell, known by many as Lady Caress, is a performer and spoken word artist based in Phoenix, but also travels the nation. "In talking with my agents and talking with people who are in public spaces and who are performers in the entertainment industry where our poems aren’t written they are performed, so what we’re having to do is some digital performances,” said Russell.

Bryan Chatlien
Lady Caress is a poet and performer who currently lives in the Valley.

She said she still maintains hope for the near future.

"We as a society are having to do things we didn’t do before but some of that is also going to help us grow in a new way. I’m not excited where we are, but I’m excited with the new things we’re going to be able to come up with as a result of being in this situation," she said. 

It’s that strong statement of perseverance, deeply rooted in her own past and pasts of others, Lady Caress connects to in her own poetic words.  

From the poem "Bred for This" by Lady Caress.

“Just remember how far our people have come.
Understand your color makes you a conqueror.
Thus, you cannot quit.
Despite you may be feeling broken, battered and bruised.
Oh honey, you were born and bred for this.”  

Listen to in-depth conversations on “Word,” KJZZ's podcast about the literary arts in Arizona and the region.

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