My year started with a promise of an incredible and busy year, as I am sure many of yours did. I was honored to be selected as the City of Murfreesboro Painter Laureate for 2020, along with a Poet Laureate and a Photography Laureate. After years of working as an artists full-time it was a wonderful recognition to receive. Myself and the other Laureates hung a show at the Washington Gallery Theater at Patterson Park. We had a lovely reception where we received a trophy. The three of us, along with our Cultural Arts coordinators set about planning our year of activities and loading up the calendar with engagements that would allow us to reach into our community and share our arts with those who may best benefit from them. Yay!!!
The show was moved from the Washington Gallery to the Murfreesboro Center for the Arts, and a reception for that show was scheduled and with visitors coming in as conversations were beginning about how this whole “Coronavirus or COVID-19” would affect people in our community. There was slight lighthearted jest over hearing someone cough and sharing a smirky “uh oh” comment. We didn’t know yet what we were facing.
I began teaching a Sketchbook Collective class as part of my outreach and we were able to enjoy three sessions before things began to close up.
There were no more lighthearted comments about COVID-19. Panic struck and store shelves were emptied and “stay at home” orders came from the Mayor of our city as well as surrounding areas and the State. I had to take down my art from the Center for the Arts and all my workshops were cancelled. Everyone who could was told to work from home.
For an introverted artist with home studios, this didn’t seem like such a horrible situation initially. I thought to myself, I have plenty to keep me busy. But as the weeks wore on, I wandered about between states of anxiety and concern for my fellow humans and what this would mean in the long run, to super crazy productivity on projects that I have had on the back burner for years – those projects that you put off because you know you don’t have time to hunker in and do, like complicated quilts, and learning knitting stitches, and putting together puzzles, cleaning closets or fabric stashes. But there were days where I couldn’t get started. I would cry and feel overwhelmed. Then days I took action and made face mask like so many others desperate to help somehow with the devastation the virus was causing.
Tennessee was one of the first states to say let’s get back to business, but they have been phasing it in. I am not ready to jump without cautions. I still wore my face mask, still do. I am slowly putting things back on my calendar. I have a lot of apprehensions about whether or not it is too soon.
Some things are getting back to business. I see a lot of people diving right it, mask abandoned and doing all things as before. Not me. I am all about baby steps. I recorded an online training segment for City TV called “Learning with the Laureates” and I taught my first live workshops – my students work mask and we practiced social distancing. The month has just begun, so we will see how it goes. I have a couple more workshop dates in Columbia TN scheduled.
So…what about the next six months?
I have Tomato Art Fest in August, The Greenway Art Festival in September, Art Studio Tour in November. All of those still feel tentative, because we are in a state of waiting to see what happens with the VIRUS. After having so much pulled from beneath our feet, it is understandable that we are cautious about planning anything with a real sense of certainty. I just hope I can find ways to do some of the things I set out to do in our Laureate planning back in January.
I pray you are all well and happy!