Woman outside smiles in front of autumnal trees
Community Engagement Coordinator, Creative Economy

CreativeGround highlights the people and places that contribute to New England’s thriving creative economy. The CreativeGround team enjoys getting to regularly delve deeper into the work of a particular artist or organization with “On the ‘Ground” interviews.

Considering the tumultuously shifting climate and it’s inevitable (and current*) impact on the creative sector, the CreativeGround team is seeking to uplift New England creative voices that are willing to share their on-the-ground lived experiences. We’ve asked the CreativeGround profiles that we featured on our home and About pages in July 2020 to share how they are navigating the shifting ground as fashion designers, dancers, presenters, and more.

CreativeGround asks: How is the current world climate (the pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement, their ripple effects, and more) affecting you as a member of the creative sector and as a human being?

Thea Hopkins (Aquinnah Wampanoag) (Somerville, Massachusetts)

As a performing songwriter, the emergence of the corona virus, as an international pandemic, has upended my touring plans, here and overseas, as it has for many artists for the foreseeable future.

Photo courtesy of Thea Hopkins

I am currently working on several projects which I hope to present in a live setting next year, or in 2022. One is tentatively titled, “Wampanoag Suite”, inspired by legends I was told as a child in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard. This will include narratives, songs and instrumental compositions. I am also writing songs for a new album, as yet untitled. My program “In The Roundhouse”, which I showcased at NEFA’s Idea Swap in 2019 continues to be a work in progress. 

We are living in revolutionary times. This offers a wealth of material from which to draw. 
As an artist, (I) have the luxury of creating positive conclusions to unsettling and tragic turns of events. The challenge and question Black Lives Matter asks is will we persist in disowning a history which continues to define us, or will we make a committed effort as a society to confront it? It is a question that is still to be answered. 

View Thea Hopkins' CreativeGround Profile >

Nicholas Burns of Samara Piano Quartet (Keene, New Hampshire)

It is heartbreaking to think of just how many concert halls have fallen silent over the last few months.

Thousands of performances across the world have been cancelled and for most, experiencing live music is just not feasible for now. Many chamber groups, including ours, have been separated by travel restrictions and the future remains very uncertain. We all have to recognize that the performing arts will be the last industry to recover from this period. 

Photo Courtesy of Samara Piano Quartet

As musicians we are passionate about sharing our love for this incredible music with our audiences, creating shared experiences that unite people. The live experience is central to our craft and we have had to think hard about how we can best re-create this connection around music remotely, using live-streaming. While it’s not perfect, it is a lot better than nothing and our forthcoming season will feature live-streaming extensively and with luck, the situation locally will allow a limited number to attend live events.  

It still feels strange to perform to an empty room but we know it is appreciated. We feel passionately about keeping live music going during a period that is incredibly difficult for everyone. Many of our regular audience members are in an at-risk demographic and so it is good to still be able to offer them performances remotely.

View Samara Piano Quartet's CreativeGround Profile >

Leslie Grant (Lincoln, Rhode Island)

One of the Big Nazo (Rhode Island) puppets wears a Leslie Grant creation.

On Covid 19: "HOME" and "SAFE" don't always equate.

On Black Live Matter: As a Fashion Stylist/Designer, my brand is all about knowing and accepting one's self; working with and celebrating what one has at any given point in time. Imagine if the entire human race did just that.

View Leslie Grant's CreativeGround Profile >

Laurel Jenkins (Middlebury, Vermont)

The question you ask is close to my heart and hovering over every aspect of my creative, teaching, leadership and personal imaginings. I am currently deep in a process of 'tilling the soil' of why I make art, what I make art about, and for who. My experience of the Pandemic is that it has forced us to sit in solitude with our bodies/minds and in this time,  we cannot ignore injustice. 

Photo courtesy of Laurel Jenkins

The streets are talking and it is time for white people to take action to understand and dismantle anti-black racism. As an artist, I am committed to doing this authentically within my spheres of influence. As a born-and-raised VT artist I am also interested in aspects of care and healing within communities of dancers here and with the land. I am slowly making a work with composer Matthew Evan Taylor called Beacon Fire that leads an audience at a distance through a landscape. Dance and sound talk over vast distances. We were scheduled to perform at the Cold Hollow Sculpture park in August but this will happen next August. I was scheduled to choreograph for an opera at Lincoln Center in the fall. Their season was canceled and I am embracing time to reflect and rebuild and to be with my 1.5 year old son. 

I am working on a remote collaboration with Visual and VR artist, Jesse Fleming, and we will most likely make a film about embodiment and nature, that will someday become a performance or instillation.

I don't feel that now is the time to produce quantities of work. Now is a reflective time.

I am grateful to have a job and am very aware of how tenuous many of my independent dancer friends have it right now financially. Everything is on hold (except for Zoom). Dance and Theater are hit particularly hard in this moment and many of the tools these artist possess - creative problem solving, collaboration and community building, speaking the truth and re imaging a new future - are precisely what this time calls for. I wish that the economic model reflected human needs for honesty and connection, and the labor of artists and activists rising to the call.

View Laurel Jenkins' CreativeGround Profile >

Vanessa Marcoux of Mayo Street Arts (Portland, ME)

Being part of a small venue that is committed to the practice of bringing people together, it feels strange to not be able to do that -- not to provide a physical space to the community, as well as the sense of comfort and support that comes with gathering as an audience or a group.

I miss seeing the faces of the artists, patrons, neighbors, performers, kids, and other community members that we would normally interact with on a regular basis.

Photo Courtesy of Mayo Street Arts

While we have been busy using this time to strengthen our organization (through making physical enhancements to improve accessibility, rebuilding our website, and fundraising -- to name a few things) it has been strange to do this in isolation. Keeping our community and their ongoing needs -- which have been highlighted further through the pandemic and through the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests -- at the forefront of my mind has been the motivation to keep going during this strange time so that we can be there to best serve the community when it is safe to open our doors again.

View Mayo Street Arts' CreativeGround Profile >

Kwadwo Adae (New Haven, CT)

Please continue to remain safe, we have to remember that these supremely difficult times are temporary. 

Photo Courtesy of Kwadwo Adae "Circulation of Wisdom" collaborative mural at Yale University.

View Kwadwo Adae's CreativeGround Profile >

Do these quandaries resonate? The CreativeGround team is listening.

If you are a New England-based creative or staff member of a cultural organization or creative business, and you want to share how you and your work are being impacted, use this form to share your experience.

Read more about these creative entities on the blog Seven CreativeGround Profiles We Love: July 2020.

Thank you to Thea, Nick (Samara Piano Quartet), Leslie, Laurel, Vanessa (Mayo Street Arts) and Kwadwo for sharing of themselves, their work, and their experiences. Look out for the next update from “On the CreativeGround with…” In the meantime, explore CreativeGround, nominate a profile to be featured and/or share their stories, read past blogs from on the CreativeGround, and, as Kwadwo said, please continue to remain safe.

* Americans for the Arts is leading three national studies tracking the human and financial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the arts. Download and read the most recent Research & Tracking Update.