read the ZINE here

C. Rose Widmann

Creating Something Out Of Nothing: Artists Thrive Despite the Pandemic (Zine)

C. Rose Widmann (they/them/theirs) is originally from Ashland, OR. They are a 6th-year student at MSU pursuing a BA in Theatre as well as an MA in Arts & Cultural Management. C holds a graduate assistantship at The Cube, and their research in digital publication

management and digital community management is conducted within the Planetside 2 outfit 2RAF, which can be found on social media. Previous journalism contributions to The Current and HerCampus MSU can be found online.

In Spring 2021, I had the idea to interview artists on how they were coping with the global pandemic. I interviewed my friends and acquaintances from MSU Department of Theatre, and also reached out on social media to find some people from the general MSU community. The interviews and photos were collected and published in the Summer 2021 edition of The Current, a student-run journalism outlet in The Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American cultures (available to read on The Current's website).

I learned several things from the experience: first, that artistic and creative-minded people are extremely resilient in times of hardship because of their drive and resourcefulness. Second, that hardship inspires new means of creation, of filling needs in the community and self with the art being made. Artists during the COVID-19 pandemic thought outside of the box (and inside the digital sphere) to conquer distance without sacrificing creation. The last thing I learned is that despite the talk of the arts being dead, that could be further from the truth. The Arts are very much alive and vital to human life. The pandemic gave daily evidence that even people who do not define themselves as artists were either finding new creative hobbies or consuming art in some way. Whether that was learning new crafts on TikTok, supporting local artists and art stores monetarily, or binging TV and streamed theatre online.

Once I started collecting these stories, I found I couldn’t stop writing. I exceeded my page limit for the article and ended up with the longest story The Current has ever published. The stories I heard while interviewing were still churning in my mind when the CREATE Grant proposals opened, and I decided to make this zine in order to continue sharing these amazing stories.

The creative world was in a strange place during the pandemic, stuck between the rock of financial need and the hard place of COVID-19 considerations. It’s still in a strange place as creative outlets try to balance the in-person audience members beating down the doors for entertainment, and the audiences brought in by accessibility updates who still need accommodation. There’s really no “going back to normal” now, only tendrils of hope and tentative plans in this new hybrid world. There’s a lot of burnout on both sides, and artists are handling it like they know how to do: with creativity, grace, and artistic expression.

The goal of this project is to record the stories of these artists for the historical record and to inspire the audience to nurture their own creative endeavors, whatever those may be. Anyone can be an artist, whether for the duration of quarantine or for a lifetime. Creativity can be held by anyone with an idea and a means to bring it to life. I invite you to celebrate the successes as well as the vulnerabilities of the artists shared here on these pages and to celebrate your own creative pursuits. We have been gifted with these unique perspectives on creativity during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a hopeful outlook on the future of arts.

May it inspire you to create in the best way you know how.