A group of Duke University senior students in the capstone course of the Science and the Public certificate program spent the spring 2022 semester delving into how an array of artists, administrators, students, and musicians created and found community during the pandemic.
With instruction from Rose Hoban and Anne Blythe, from NC Health News, and their instructor Misha Angrist, a professor of the practice at the Duke Social Science Research Institute and senior fellow in the Initiative for Science & Society, the students collected oral histories that give a panoramic view of how individuals lost and found fellowship amid COVID-19 and what impact that will have on post-pandemic.
Tyler Edwards, interviewer
Tyler Edwards (Duke University, Class of 2022) interviewed instructors of the DukeCreate program at the Arts Annex, a wonderful program that brings artists from the community to teach creative skills into the university’s community arts hub. In their interviews, the artists talked about how their personal lives and creative practices were impacted by the pandemic, as well as the adaptations they made to reconnect with their students and peers.
All agreed that teaching classes over the past two years has allowed them to give back to and connect with young artists and give them access to an outlet for their creative. Each of them also shared both their longing for the pre-Zoom world where they could give hands-on instruction without worry and pieces of wisdom and tools they’ve picked up during the pandemic that will assist them as they move forward.
“How can you weave with what you have in your house?”
Anna Wallace, 31, was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. Her creativity was encouraged from an early age by her parents, who were both social workers and artists. She attended the Durham School for the Arts before pursuing a BFA in ceramics from the Cleveland Institute of Art and an MFA in studio art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). She is also the mother to one son, and her journey to motherhood is a primary focus of her artwork. Today, she is an adjunct professor at the UNCG, the lead art teacher at Governor’s School West, and a workshop facilitator for the DukeCreate program.
The interview begins with Anna discussing the connections between her personal art practice and the entry level art course she teaches at UNCG and the intentional ways she empowers her students to create art, regardless of past interactions with the subject. Wallace discusses the difficulties she faced in trying to move her classes online at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the additional ways she sought to support her students through equity issues, and her internal struggles to balance personal safety and advocating for students during her pregnancy. Looking forward from the pandemic, Wallace is hopeful that steps taken toward equity and inclusion in arts education that began in 2020 will persist and continue to evolve.
“I was like, “Okay, well, how can you weave with what you have in your house?” So I developed this idea to use an old credit card that you can cut up and make a tiny loom. You could use literally floss, like teeth floss if you don’t have some of the right supplies. I just thought of anything people have in their house. And so that was one of the workshops I did on Zoom, and I thought that was really fun. So, I even felt like it lowered the bar of entry, like you don’t even need supplies. And there were a lot of artists on Instagram that I was following early on making these prompts for just everyday people and also other artists when things were really shut down, to kind of keep us busy. And there was this really generous community of sharing techniques and ideas and I think especially really early on, when people were just at home for two weeks literally doing nothing, like not working or anything, everyone just wanted to be creative and I thought that was really, really beautiful.”
Listen to Anna’s interview here.
“All these people kept asking me, ‘Are you okay?’ And I’d ask other people, ‘Are you okay?’”
Robby Poore, 56, was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and was raised in Los Alamos, New Mexico. His art practice was discouraged by his parents in his youth, and his primary outlet for his creativity became creating posters and t-shirts for punk rock bands. He received a BFA in Painting, Drawing, and Printmaking from the University of New Mexico in 1993. He is currently the Design Manager at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Government, a freelance graphic designer, and an instructor for screen printing workshops through the DukeCreate program.
His artwork has also been included as part of the archive at Wilson Library. He is married to an infectious disease epidemiologist and has two children. In the interview, Poore shares vibrant stories from his various career experiences, how he captured the anxiety of the pandemic in his posters, how participation in his workshops has changed during COVID, and a potential method for reminding students of screen printing techniques in the Arts Annex using QR codes. He has most enjoyed spending time outside at bars and in his mother’s backyard during the pandemic and hopes that students will get back to joking with one another during workshops once a new normal has been firmly established.
Listen to an excerpt from Robby’s interview here.
“I think the thing that I would like to hold on to is my ability to just accept what I have and make do.”
Amber Mooers was born in Walla Walla, Washington and grew up in central Massachusetts. She received her BFA in Ceramics from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in 2020, and currently works as the Building Manager of the Duke Arts Annex. There, she is instrumental in the day-to-day operations of the building, including maintenance and the enforcement of COVID policies, as well as teaching ceramics and needle felting workshops for the Duke Create program.
In her interview, she confidently discusses the steps which landed her at Duke, the sense of camaraderie she feels with other employees, and the ways she used art to connect with her close friend Yve. During the coronavirus pandemic, she has most missed having feedback from her peers on her art throughout her creative process. Her ability to remain adaptable in her career and art practice throughout the pandemic has sustained her, and she is thankful for the ability to share accessible and gratifying art forms with Duke students through her workshops.
Listen to Amber’s interview here.