Of Hope is a performance addressing the impacts of social isolation, grief, loss, and hope during COVID-19. Of Hope will provide a space to share the hard stuff, a place to give a sense of connection and normalcy through art during a time of unrest and fear, a place to feel seen, and an opportunity to bring live, place-based art back into Spenard after a year of struggle. As we move out of the darkness of winter and into the light of Spring, we too move from a place of despair to a place of hope. Of Hope will take place on April 10, 2021, in the parking lot of The Nave in Spenard. The performance is part of the Community Artist Project initiative through the Anchorage Concert Association with support from the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, and the Alaska BookMobile. NAMI Anchorage is a sponsor of this event and will provide information on mental health resources after the show. Project contributors include Navasota Sering, Jumpback Productions, Keren Lowell, Meghan Kim, Will Koeppen, Landsick Media, Bryan Fidel Pentecostes, Ryan Chernikoff, Cara Rude, Becky Kendall, and Eric Cobb. Performers are Jessie Embley, José Isaza, Meghan Kim, and Enzina Marrari.
The goals of this project are:
(1) To provide a sense of connection and normalcy through art during a time of unrest and fear;
(2) To provide a space to share the hard stuff – the difficult feelings, thoughts of isolation, loneliness, and through it, the possibility of hope –to help individuals relate their personal feelings to something outside of themselves. In hearing others express personal experiences, struggles, thoughts, and behaviors, a sense of relief is provided; a sense of being seen, of not being alone, of being a part of something, and;
(3) To bring live, place-based art back to Spenard.
Through my work, I reinforce the idea of connectedness, that what we experience on an intimate, personal level is shared and experienced on a broad, social level. I feel that this socialization of emotion leads to more expansive compassion, empathy, connection, and understanding of ourselves as individuals and our community. Much how storytelling acts as a connector, my style of performance art does the same. I hope that this project will confront the isolation we have all felt during COVID and provide a safe opportunity for people to leave their homes and be submerged in art. I want to remind people that they are still a part of a community – something bigger than the walls of their homes and the screens of their computers. I have a high-risk disability and have had to exercise extreme caution in everything I do since the beginning of this pandemic. I have experienced extreme isolation and a profound disconnect to the community I have felt so invested in. I know I am not alone in this experience. I hope this small artistic contribution will benefit from being transported out of the current fear of living through now and into an expression of love, art, hope, and connection.
Of Hope will occur live as a drive-in or socially distant sit-in on April 10th, 2021. It will also stream live for individuals who are unable to attend in person. The sound will be broadcast through the radio and live-stream link; headphones will be required to hear the audio outside of a personal vehicle. Drive-in is reserved for high-risk individuals. Socially distant sit-in viewing is available for others. There is a limited quantity of hand-held radios available for loan on a first-come, first-serve basis. Attendees will receive instructions on viewing upon registering for the event.
Each viewer/household will be alone in their vehicles, watching and listening in on their radios, be alone or in pods on viewing rugs, or alone at home watching the live stream from their computers. The viewing experience mirrors the feelings, actions, and sentiments revealed through the performance and the audio narrative. The setting reflects the experience of sitting by the radio waiting to hear breaking news of global crisis or triumph, an occurrence of which we are all too familiar. The performers will also be distanced – at least 6 feet apart and wearing masks – their movements will convey a deep sense of distance and disconnection.
This project supports the community by providing an artistic experience and outlet after a year of minimal artistic opportunities for the community; it will bring back a sense of normalcy. The storytelling component of the narrative audio will create a sense of connection and humanize individual experiences. This project will also provide information and resources for mental health and wellness services through NAMI's sponsorship. In the long term, this project will show the impact of place-based community art and the power of cross-sector partnerships between artists and organizations (Anchorage Concert Association, Cook Inlet Housing Authority, NAMI). These cross-sector partnerships are the heart of community arts development. The more we see successful outcomes through partnerships, the more organizations and institutions will feel confident and inspired to do community arts development work. Projects like these also show the impact that place-based artworks can have on a community – reflecting pride on neighborhoods, encouraging healthy and productive activity, and space for neighbors to intersect and meet those they may not have otherwise. These community-based projects lead to connections and relationships. With hope, this project will also encourage people to seek mental and emotional health help when they need it, destigmatize mental illness, and utilize resources provided in our community to prevent poor mental health outcomes.
The project will be located in the heart of Spenard, a diverse community in midtown Anchorage. The median household income in Spenard is the fourth-lowest of all neighborhoods in Anchorage. This activity will be free and open to the public. Registration for the event will be encouraged to manage better flow, parking, and contacts for a post-show survey. The event will discuss mental health and provide a connection to resources and services through NAMI Anchorage. Awareness of mental health is essential to our communities. COVID has compromised safety and security for many, intensifying the need for mental health resources. The event is also tailored to those with disabilities or other high-risk conditions. Providing a drive-in or live-stream option will enable and empower individuals who can not attend a public event to participate in this one safely and at their comfort level. Safety and access are the utmost priorities. The event is free and open to the public to be fully accessible, but donations to NAMI Anchorage are encouraged to support the ongoing provision of mental health services.