Image Credit: PBJ Arts Collective
Words by Joey Phoenix
“I think artists can go to a level of vision that can often save us from a situation which seems to have no solution whatsoever. – Susan Griffin
2020 has been a hard decade, and it’s just getting started.
People are collectively experiencing social grief and screen burnout like never before, but, in a testament to human ingenuity, this disenchantment has led to some remarkable developments.
Many never-before-artists have taken to crafting, baking, foraging, and video-making (when they’re not reading up on how to be a good ally in the fight against institutionalized racism), and their creations have been sparks of brightness and color against a grey and often disheartening backdrop.
Note: Scroll to the bottom of the article to see the Community Quarantine Gallery and check out what community makers have been up to over the last few months).
And at the same time, professional artists and performers have also found new ways to express themselves when new inputs are few (or nearly universally bad) and everything seems overwhelming. Some artists who have before limited themselves to a single medium are branching out to new endeavors, while others are up to some of their old antics, creating work we just can’t get enough of.
For two creative pods, The Rodenhiser Family and the PBJ Art Collective, art is something that has enabled them to fill their time in Quarantine with something creative in the midst of all the frustration and tedium.
Making “Home Videos” with the Rodenhisers
When COVID-19 restrictions first went into effect in March, the Rodenhiser family went into creation mode. The family is made up of well-known local actor and Gallows Hill Theatre Owner/Operater Erik Rodenhiser, his wife and fellow actor Ursina Amsler, who’s also an art teacher at Masconomet Regional Middle School, and their two tech-savvy sons Griffin and Phoenix.
With Erik’s gigs and shows suddenly not there, Ursina’s rehearsals postponed and art classes taken online, and Griffin and Phoenix stuck inside doing remote schoolwork, the family decided to spend their time creating a series of hilarious and topical “home videos” that added some much needed levity to the serious news.
“Eric is always one for doing something fun and crazy,” Ursina said. “But [making these movies] developed into a collaborative effort with each asking ‘what’s going to happen now’ and ‘hey, let’s try it like this.'”
While Ursina was the primary concept creator for the videos, Griffin filmed and edited both “COVID-19: The Reckoning” and “Zombies vs. COVID-19,” and Phoenix filmed and edited “COVID-19: Family Quarantine.”
Griffin, Erik, and Ursina are all performers who have been seen in shows on the North Shore and beyond, Phoenix generally prefers to be behind the scenes, although he was happy to play along for specific roles for the COVID Home videos.
In addition to what she did with the Quarantine videos in the last few months, Ursina also dedicated a portion of her time this summer to creating Art prompts for kids looking for structured art activities.
“You can take art and benefit from it, even if you don’t plan on going into an artistic field,” Ursina said. “Because that kind of creative thinking and that kind of problem solving is a necessary skill for anything in life.
Some of these prompts include painting with coffee and tea, Grafitti Style name designs, and the COVID-19 Meme Challenge. You can see the galleries these prompts inspired or maybe get inspiration to do it yourself on her website at https://amslerartroom.wordpress.com/remote-learning/
“Creativity is rewarding in that you have a product to share at the end, whether it’s a video or a piece of artwork, you have something tangible that you have created, you know, getting there’s pride in that.”
Inclusive Crafting with the PBJ Arts Collective
Art is capable of being representational in ways our modern world just doesn’t naturally provide, and for creative pod Pursuing Better Joy (PBJ) Arts Collective, inclusivity has always been at the center of what they do.
“What inspires me to create (and our group, really) is the ways in which we touch the community. We wanted to make art that we couldn’t find anywhere else: pride flag blankets, cards with fat mermaids of color, and pride-flag hair embroidery,” said PBJ member Connor Simonoff.
The collective is made up of housemates and interdisciplinary artists whose work ranges from fabric art to gardening to 2-D Art and Design. You can follow them on Instagram @pbjartscollective or acquire their wares at https://pbj-arts-collective.square.site/.
Many of their works feature snarky statements and bright rainbow colors. It’s a feast for the eyes, and a dash of hopeful representation for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
“It’s a niche market for sure, but once someone finds you and their eyes light up, that’s when it’s worth it. Also, all of us were creating before we were selling,” Connor said.
“We create because it helps us digest the world. It’s what makes COVID19 so hard: there’s just too much to swallow right now,” He added.
Creating Through Quarantine Community Art Gallery
Many of you submitted photos and videos of the things you’ve been working on and making during Quarantine! So we’ve turned them into a gallery. If you didn’t get a chance to submit, but would like a chance to be featured, send the editor a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Midsummer Night’s Dream – North Shore Players
HiddenRiver – Photos by Laurie Larson- Music by Paul Senn
Costumed Storytime with Inevitable Betrayal Cosplay