Moving Forward, Looking Back, Staying Present
by Andrea Assaf
Here we are in uncharted waters. The global pandemic COVID-19 and the coronavirus it comes from have sent most of humanity into the deep of unknowns, looking for where and how to land. Some of us are floating, some of us are drowning. It is a time that requires great calm and patience, even as many of us feel gripped with panic. It is a time that calls for great compassion, while systemic inequities and widespread injustices become more starkly apparent.
What can artists do in times like these? What is action, when the best thing that most of us can do is stay home?
Well, here are a few things I’m personally endeavoring to do right now: Abide by all CDC recommendations and practice self-quarantine, doing my part to help flatten the curve (while acknowledging the great privilege I have in being able to do so). Learn new creative ways to use technology, to create connection and build community when we can’t share physical space. Remember the practices that ground me: writing, moving meditation, spending time with nature (even if that means just one plant or ray of sunshine), trying to rest well, eat healthy, and read books. Call my elders, family, and old friends. Engage in whatever digital activism I can, and ask my government representatives to do the right thing, for all the people in this country, and across the world. Share whatever resources and education I come across. Participate in civic action, now more than ever: filling out the Census online, thinking ahead about how to vote when the time comes. Slowing down. Taking time for reflection, and daydreaming. Moving forward, looking back, staying present.
At Art2Action, for now, we are postponing or re-imagining all of our public events. For the first time, on April 5, 2020, we will host our first online community performance event, the ONLINE Veterans Community Open Mic. And yes, the mic is OPEN! We invite not only our local community to participate, but artist friends from across the U.S. to be our special guests. Please join us if you can!
We are also very aware of the great economic toll this crisis is taking on individual artists, and the national arts community. Art2Action is committed to doing everything we can, within our limited resources, to support artists, this year and beyond.
Here are a few sites that artists can visit for helpful links and information:
We hope all of you reading this are healthy, safe, and staying full of creativity and hope. One of the great things that art can do in times of crisis is to remind us of hope, vision and joy. This pandemic will pass. Most of us will survive, maybe even become stronger. And for those who do not, and for those who are losing loved ones, may we be ever more generous, compassionate, supportive and loving. May we not just flatten the curve, but raise the bar, to fix the systems of inequity that make the most vulnerable among us fear the surge.
Perhaps we will learn, through this process, how to stay afloat, and how to help each other ashore. Perhaps some of us, as artists, will learn to swim beautifully in tumultuous seas, to perfect back flips and swan dives, to swim with dolphins and previously unimagined sea creatures… Perhaps we’ll all be far more prepared for the challenges of the future, if or when they come. Perhaps we’ll develop new visions, to guide us forward.
Andrea Assaf is the founding Artistic & Executive Director of Art2Action, Inc. She is a writer, director, performer, and cultural organizer. Andrea’s original work, Eleven Reflections on September, has been featured at the National Asian American Theatre Festival at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), La MaMa, The Apollo, The Kennedy Center, and internationally. Awards include: 2019 NEFA National Theatre Project, 2019 & 2011 NPN Creation Fund commissions, 2017 Freedom Plow Award for Poetry and Activism Finalist, and 2010 Princess Grace Award for Directing. Andrea has a Master’s degree in Performance Studies and a Bachelor of Fine Arts, both from NYU. She serves on the Boards of the Consortium of Asian American Theatres & Artists (CAATA) and Alternate ROOTS, and is a Steering Committee member of the MENA Theatre-Makers Alliance.