Community Creativity During COVID-19
The answer to the question “What does art look like in the time of Covid-19?” will have different answers for different communities. There are also many amazingly prescient and connected impulses guiding artists and community organizers worldwide. Here’s a peek at what a few of our Guelph Creative Writing MFA community members are up to.
Mark Marczyk, poetry alumnus and musician, is one of the founding members of URGNT, a collective which began live-streaming performances from empty Toronto theatres in the early days of the pandemic. His words on initiating the project speak to the heart of our social need for shared art and connection:
We need this. Our city needs this. The whole world needs this. Italians quarantined in apartment blocks have been having sing alongs from their balconies. European opera houses are releasing their coveted video archives to the public. Symphonies are being performed in front of no one. We are all being creative in the face of adversity to remember our humanity. It would be nice to be creative together so that when this all passes, we can remember and be proud of what we did together to get through it.
URGNT has since moved on to presenting a month long (entirely virtual) performance series in partnership with several cancelled Ontario music festivals. Keep an eye out for current MFA candidate and spoken work artist, Britta B, who will be one of ten featured guests for the series’ culminating performance on May 8th. Find the full schedule and access info at urgnt.ca.
Graduate Jael Richardson, Artistic Director of the Festival of Literary Diversity (which celebrates its 5th anniversary this year) also took the current public health protocols as a challenge to get creative. Rather than cancelling the festival, which usually takes place in Brampton on the first weekend of May, the organizers re-imagined it in an entirely online form. Now there are 17 robust zoom sessions being offered ranging from panels to performances to workshops. For the first time, all festival content will also be 100% free to access. You can register for sessions running from April 30–May 4th at thefoldcanada.org, and Quill & Quire published some tips on taking best advantage of the offerings.
Among the many fantastic FOLD authors this year is MFA alumna Canisia Lubrin, who recently launched her poetry collection The Dyzgraphxst (M&S). Canisia will be instructing a poetry workshop with Billy-Ray Belcourt on April 30th at 12pm and speaking on the Reconciliation and Resistance panel (Part 1) on May 1st at 8pm.
Playwriting alumna Anna Chatterton is participating in two different virtual performance projects. You can catch a live performance of her solo show Quiver on Sunday April 26th at 1pm (FaceBook Live) as part of the National Arts Centre’s #CanadaPerforms initiative. Anna’s new play Cowgirl Up (originally scheduled to be premiere at Alberta Theatre Projects) has also been selected for PlayME podcast's new series "The Show Must Go On" featuring plays cancelled due to COVID-19. Cowgirl Up is currently being made into a podcast and will be available for listening June 10.
It’s a hard time to be releasing a book so let’s give these authors some love. Alumna Claire Caldwell’s poetry collection Gold Rush (Invisible Publishing) has just launched—Claire is scheduled to participate in the Pandemic Response Reading Series, April 29th at 7pm (access details here) and her collection has been featured on the 49th Shelf’s virtual Launchpad. Mathew Henderson has also released his second collection Roguelike with House of Anansi—it’s available for delivery, and as an e-book (with the purchase of any e-book, Anansi is currently offering to send a second copy to a friend of your choice for free). Congratulations, also, to our Faculty members with new books out: Shani Mootoo, for her novel Polar Vortex (Book*hug), and Souvankham Thammavongsa, for her short story collection How to Pronounce Knife (M&S).
Current MFA students participating in Kyo Maclear’s Hybrid Forms Workshop are also producing and sharing new work conceived in response to the pandemic and were recently featured in Quill & Quire. You can read their mixed-mode reflections here.
Stay safe and stay connected, friends.