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COVID is still upon us, but we’ve mastered the art of pushing through with the help of vaccines and a whole lot of resilience. During quarantine, most of us went through the challenges of extreme isolation, and through this, some discovered new sides of themselves they didn’t know they had. Through all the loss and hardship that's been going on since early 2020, many learned new approaches that made them stronger than before.
With growing vaccination rates in many regions and hopes that everyone globally will have access, many have begun slowly returning to the things we love but have had to put aside. While we remain cautious, it's safe to say that few of us continue to take daily life for granted, and the time to rejoice is so close, we can taste it. That being said, reflection is essential as we continue moving forward, so we asked some of our favorite creatives how they’ve coped with the pandemic and how they're doing over a year later. Keep reading for six creatives' experiences through COVID and lessons learned.
Elizabeth Tamkin, fashion writer, consultant, and stylist
"At the start of the pandemic last year, I was coming home from an office I very much enjoyed going to. I had surrounded myself with people I found inspiring and enjoyed daily banter with—casual things. Since then, I've switched jobs and also gone through waves of confidence in myself. I think that the most important thing is that I've truly forced myself to not hide away. I am very much inclined to hide behind my computer or social media and have that as my social fulfillment, but it's not. Talking to friends or past coworkers and seeing what others are up to and what inspires them, inspires me. I've also found that being more open to change is good. At the beginning of quarantine, I was painting—something I got my degree in and feel good doing. I live in a studio apartment, so space restrictions are difficult to paint in, but it was so important for me to exercise that—even if the painting comes out not quite the way I'd hope it to come out (I'm rusty!). Remembering to be patient with myself (and others), and truly living by that, has been the most important strategy for my work and personal life alike."
Emily Jampel, filmmaker
"I think COVID has helped me become much more focused and in-tune with myself as a creative. Prior to the pandemic, I’d always talked about wanting to do things like direct a short film for years, and started a bunch of different projects and scripts that I never saw through, just assuming these goals would happen at some vague point in the future, without ever really committing to them. I felt constantly busy with work, a relationship, friends, and a lot of side projects, so I never really realized there was a part of me that was unfulfilled. Being forced to really sit with myself and be alone for several months without the noise of everyday life (as hard as it was and still is emotionally) really helped me to clarify my goals as an artist and what I want for myself, as well as giving me the time and space to finally focus on making them happen."
Mukunda Angulo, filmmaker and member of the Wolfpack
"After a long and emotional year, I’m certain of one thing and that is that I am happier now then I was before. COVID gave me something I hadn't had before: time to deeply create. I’ve often felt that way with a lot of any art coming out—what I’d create would tend to [connect to] something already made, not much completely from my own world (or at least some of it would tend to feel that way). When all work was paused, I suddenly had time to dive into the deep, creative world I’d almost forgotten about, and think about how I can present that art as meaningful as I have found it to be to others. A year after that pause, I can now say I’ve been able to find a balance. My best advice is to be sure you are doing what you love and always put your art first; in my case that means my happiness."
Aja Grant, musician and founding member of Phony Ppl
"At the start of last year, I was preparing myself for another year of touring, but 2020 turned out totally different than 2019. I thought that all I knew was that the shows were about to get bigger. My band, Phony Ppl, was scheduled to play festivals that we’ve always wanted to play—Afropunk, Boston Calling, Osheaga Festival, and more. We were supposed to end the year in Australia and be in Japan on New Year's. So when the pandemic hit the US [and all of that changed], my team immediately went into planning. We were figuring out ways to increase our internet presence, so we bought GoPros and a ton of other camera equipment and started playing shows virtually. We soon realized that you can’t do that over the web because of WiFi latency, so we’d each record a full show individually starting with drums, send to the rest of the band to record, then top it with vocals to give the illusion of a live show.
"Besides that we were lucky to have released a song before the pandemic hit that went #1 on radio across the US, Fkn Around ft. Megan Thee Stallion. This happened during the pandemic. We were having radio talk show interviews over the phone and Instagram Live—it felt like everybody was going live. Because of that, it sparked us to start our own talk show called Fkn Around Fridays, every Friday at 7 p.m. via Zoom on Instagram Live. Since the beginning of quarantine, I’ve been building my own studio in my basement—I bought an upright piano, a drum set, and I’m constantly upgrading my equipment to record a studio album that will be coming out soon."
Howard Reyes, artist
"I threw myself into making work at home as soon as the lockdown happened last year. I ended my lease on my studio a few months before COVID, so I had worked from home a little before all of this went down. I had to adapt my style due to the size restrictions of working out of my apartment. I was looking around and realized I had a ton of colored pencils, markers, and other fun things you used to use in middle school art class, so I quickly started to apply these to the work I was making. My approach is colorful and childlike, as well as dark and detailed at points. During the quarantine, I kept thinking about how George Condo said, “Why can’t a drawing be as important as a painting?” With that being said, I’m currently working on a larger scale drawing right now that’s 40" x 30". I leave it on the floor and just chip away at it everyday. My range of mediums, as well as looking at the everyday tools as a bit more special, have made this uncertain time exciting."
Cara Schacter, writer
"So much of being alive recently has been about wiping down surfaces. I’ve never understood dust or thought it was fair. Still, the opportunity to confront all the micro particles of curious stuff around us is an apt metaphor for the kind of writing I’ve been doing in these quarantined times. I once had a therapist who loved to say, “You can’t see the forest for the trees." I think this is supposed to mean that you can’t see the big picture while obsessing over tiny details. No offense to that therapist, but no one can ever "see" the forest—the forest is an abstract concept that only exists because of the trees... I think. Is anyone dating a botanist I can ask? Anyway, this year, with all its chaos and confusion, trying to see the big picture has felt impossible. So I doubled down on looking at trees. I’ve always liked writing that is granular in its focus. Hyper-fixating on particularities of the world can seem futile, but sometimes it’s all that feels manageable."