Published on March 27th, 2020 | by Elizabeth Tettleton0
Finding Community in the Time of Social Distancing
How to Survive A Pandemic In Oxford
Just before I sat down to draft this article, I became aware that renowned New York City Chef Floyd Cardoz passed away after having tested positive for COVID-19 on March 18, 2020. Floyd participated in an April 10, 2016 Move On Up Mississippi fundraiser for the foundation’s inaugural year of fundraising endeavors, called Light in April. Now that he has left our world, it is a jarring reminder to me that this virus is not selective; it will attack anyone it can and leave misery in its wake.
As we all hunker down, do as we are told, and live in solitude for the foreseeable future at the discretion of our policy makers, please know that your community in Oxford and at the University of Mississippi campus are collecting efforts to help engage us. Some are bored extroverts seeking connection while avoiding face-to-face human interaction, and others are seeking opportunities to hone new crafts and hobbies. Still others are finding ways to educate, occupy, and feed their children, a role previously filled by public or private school.
Musicians, painters, textile artists, writers, authors, chefs, and so many others are offering their talents online as a way to build community. I don’t want you to miss out on a thing, so The Local Voice and I have been feverishly working to ensure we capture the highlights. If you know of something we can share for others, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 662-832-3574.
How to be Effective in the Home Environment
Creating Your Work Space
For those working from home, it’s important to facilitate an environment that allows for productivity. Personally, I have found that separating myself from distractions, silencing my phone, using a desk that is a traditional height, and eliminating noise to be helpful. I like to start by brewing a cup of tea or coffee and thoroughly checking social media before diving in, so I am not pulled to check it for several hours.
Creating Your Education Space
I was home educated, so this comes to me fairly second nature. I think the key, if I were the parent implementing this, is to be kind to yourself and allow room for improvisation. As a child I was most happy with a flexible attitude. Some days, math is not going to come as easily as spelling. It may throw you off schedule, but that is okay. Be sure to plan break time with pre-set goals and establish expectations and boundaries. For example, be at the table, bed made, dressed, and ready by 8 am. Some examples of boundaries include no phone or TV before lunch. Goals can include things like finishing an extra few pages of reading to earn an extra TV show. Clear guidelines will help everyone, especially children, and can be extremely helpful when multiple parents are working from home and setting the same expectations.
Creating Your Communal Space
If you’re living with another person in close quarters, it is important to respect each other’s space. Respect your roommates’ leftovers, ask before using someone’s favorite mug, take turns doing the dishes and taking out the trash. Is there a best spot for the internet connection or quietest place for conference calls? Negotiate who has which space and when so everyone gets what they need.
Creating Your Creative Space
When we are lacking in-person social interaction, it is enough to make many of us go crazy. In these uncertain times, be sure to ward off loneliness, depression, and stir-crazy attitudes with some good old craft, coloring, baking, music, and creative writing. It might even be fun to put on a production of a favorite play or create home movies, but find a space to do activities solo that will allow creativity to flow. Strategically plan this into your schedule and make sure you prioritize it.
Aid for Those Financially Affected
The McLean Institute on the University of Mississippi campus has taken the lead in creating a general resource graphic of all types of locally offered aid. The list continues to grow as quarantines and social distancing are prolonged by local and national government entities. In fact, they plan to move online to a website with more detailed elaboration of the aid available, which will be hosted at mclean.olemiss.edu sometime this week, so be sure to check back if you are seeking aid or looking for ways to contribute. Below are some highlights.
You can now apply for the United States Small Business Association (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). The EIDL is a low-interest, fixed-rate loan that can provide up to $2 million in assistance for a small business. SBA’s EIDL funds come directly from the United States Treasury. Applicants apply directly to SBA’s Disaster Assistance Program. Learn more by visiting https://oxfordms.com/coronavirus-small-business-resources/.
“We are offering funds from the J.E. Pitts Fund to help artists and restaurant employees with bills. We are directly helping artists by hiring them to produce online content as part of Stay@Home Fest ranging from literary readings, mini concerts, cocktail classes, and tours of visual art spaces,” said Wayne Andrews, executive director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. The J.E. Pitts Artist Fund is available to artists and restaurant workers affected by the coronavirus-related shutdowns, who are faced with a dramatic reduction or complete loss of income. Applications for the J.E. Pitts fund can be found at https://oxfordarts.com/programs/grants/j-e-pitts-artist-fund.
The United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County (UWOLC) has established a COVID-19 fund to help provide short-term relief to individuals and families living in Lafayette County who have been affected by a loss of wages due to COVID-19.
“While the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County is not a direct service provider, we are proud to support several outstanding organizations that provide such assistance to Lafayette County residents in need on an ongoing basis. Our COVID-19 fund will supplement the tremendous work that is already being accomplished at a time when the collective needs of our community far exceed the means of local nonprofit organizations,” saud Kurt Brummett, executive director of United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County.
The contributions received through the UWOLC’s COVID-19 fund will be granted to a nonprofit organization (or potentially nonprofit organizations) that will provide direct assistance to those impacted on a case-by-case basis. Information regarding the organization(s) receiving grant funds will be released at a later date.
“In this time of uncertainty and fear, we want to help,” says John Currence, founder of Move On Up Mississippi (MOUMS). MOUMS funds educational initiatives to realize a healthier future for Mississippi children, but today they are focused on supporting our local communities who are now unemployed because of the public health crisis, have been quarantined under a doctor’s order, or have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The Move On Up Mississippi foundation provides access to packages of food staples our local groceries cannot keep on the shelves. By Friday March 27, 2020, Move on Up Mississippi will have helped by preparing over 100 boxes to contribute to food security during COVID-19. If you are interested in applying for assistance from MOUMS, fill out their application located at moveonupms.org/covidhelp/ and send the completed application to COVIDhelp@moveonup.org. You can volunteer time and money by contacting the same email address and listing HERE TO HELP in the subject line.
Social Connection from Your Living Room
“While we may need to be in isolation, that does not mean our sense of community needs to stop. Lafayette County residents care about their neighbors, and it shows—they have taken steps to social distance, provide information online to those in need, shop for elderly neighbors, continue to support local restaurants, and maintain community by sharing online. Our efforts to offer Stay@Home Fest was to give a focal point to help the community find the creative expressions within our community. From Andi Bedsworth of Art To Go‘s offering family art challenges, The Oxford Comma organizing weekly writing prompts, to live concerts and movie premiers online by Oxford Film Festival. These all remind us that we don’t need a [physical gathering] place in order to connect.” –Wayne Andrews
Stay@Home Fest brings together artists from the local community—all they need to do is inquire at email@example.com in order to be involved. The lineup is constantly updating with new opportunities, so stay abreast of them by following events on Facebook and their lineup on their website at: https://oxfordarts.com/8-frontpage/545-stay-home-festival-2 .
The internet is full of local musicians and artists who are cooped up in their homes, eager to share their talents with you. Just last week I watched frontman of The Decemberists, Colin Meloy, give a free concert from his room, taking requests from viewer comments.
Oxford’s local music scene is rich, so check out these folks today and listen as a family, solo, or while you do the dishes. For a regular update on local live concerts, The Local Voice has posted several “Check It Out” articles that highlight musicians’ live streams.
Silas Reed IV has posted several live streams, and also participated in the Stay@Home Fest. “Being in the Oxford area has been a stroke of good luck for me and many other artists during these strange times. People are making an effort to support their favorite local eateries by ordering meals for curbside pick up, and they are supporting local musicians through electronic tip jars and other forms of social media engagement,” said Silas Reed.
I spoke with Will Griffith of The Great Dying, who recently ended his tour early due to the coronavirus shut downs and cancellations.
“We were attempting to finish the western leg of our tour. We killed it on the east coast. Came home for a few days and knew what we were facing by trying the western leg. I was being optimistic about things getting better not worse. Even after a few cancellations rolled in other clubs were picking us up. We played Tennessee, Nebraska, and a pick up show in Denver. Just observing everything over the course of five days and three shows, we knew we had to turn back. We made a decision just south of Wyoming and started back southeast. Three hours later the entire tour was cancelled due to lockdowns.”
Will has been putting up Instagram videos daily, which you can find @greatdying. Will is also selling merch directly, if you are looking for some cool new swag.
“We were really looking forward to playing music for St. Patrick’s Day and CelticFest Mississippi (which I’ve attended every year since 1994),” said Greg Johnson, bassist and multi-instrumentalist of Celtic Crossroads and The Old Ways.
“As these gig dates were approaching it became apparent that things weren’t going to happen. The day before St. Patrick’s Day, Shaundi and I had the idea to try streaming a live show via Facebook Live. Neither of us had ever live streamed before, but we wanted to share some Celtic music despite us needing to isolate at home.” Shaundi Wall and Greg Johnson played a phenomenal concert on March 17 that filled my home with gorgeous tunes.
Ryan Miller, a member of the staff at Ole Miss in the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, recently released his own album of music, Stairway Sessions. Ryan is streaming live on Facebook Friday, March 27 at 6:30 pm, and has chosen to donate proceeds to the YAC Artists and Restaurant Workers fund. Don’t forget to tune in to hear this local treasure.
Online Workshops and Courses
From local to large corporations, opportunities abound to constantly be learning and creatively stimulating your mind through virtual workshops.
Locally, The Oxford Comma creative writing group launched a four-week writing competition, awarding a “favorite” the opportunity to be published in The Local Voice and the YAC weekly newsletters. The group, led by me and several university professors and Ole Miss graduates, meets bi-weekly to workshop their creative writing. This week’s first prompt, “write about the feeling of being alone or lonely,” speaks to the isolation we are all feeling on our second solid week of social distancing. The submission link can be found on their Facebook @The Oxford Comma creative writing group or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
LinkedIn recently made available 16 LinkedIn Learning courses for free, including tips on how to stay productive, build relationships when you’re not face-to-face, use virtual meeting tools (Microsoft Teams, Skype, BlueJeans, Cisco Webex, and Zoom), and balance family and work dynamics in a healthy way. What’s even better? If you complete all 16 courses, 13.5 hours of material, you’ll have a nifty new certification to boast on your resume and LinkedIn page! Visit here: Remote Working: Setting Yourself and Your Teams Up for Success
Hootsuite also has its Hootsuite Academy, which is an excellent (mostly) free resource for social media courses and training. Their certifications are not free, but well worth the cost if you want to use your remote-work free time in a productive way. Visit here: Free Social Media Marketing & Platform Courses
Southern Star Yoga is currently offering free online classes since closing their studio next to Snackbar. This is a great time to try out yoga if you haven’t before, straight from the privacy of your own living room. Simply visit their website at southernstaryoga.com and follow the Zoom link to join in for one of the times listed below, or check out their full schedule online.
Monday 6 pm: All Levels Flow
Tuesday and Thursday 6pm: Beginner’s Classes
Contribute to their teachers’ salary fund by donating to Venmo to @southernstaryoga
Stimulate the Local Economy
Our restaurants are in need of your participation right now more than ever, and you don’t need to leave the safety of your home in order to support them. Fetcht delivery is an excellent way to have food delivered to you, and curbside pick-up is an option at a host of restaurants in town. Follow the Daily Dispatch from The Local Voice to keep up with the most recent restaurant offerings, or purchase a gift card to support the restaurants’ efforts to continue paying their staff.
Food + Produce
The Oxford Community Market (every Tuesday at The Old Armory Pavilion), Chicory Market, LB’s Meat Market, and E.C. Moore Grocery (on HWY 6, between Oxford and Batesville) are three local establishments that need your patronage and you might fail to think of when you go to Kroger and the red meat and chicken refrigerators are bare. Our local purveyors, such as Homeplace Pastures, Brown’s Dairy, and Falkner Farms are working constantly to keep shelves full, and LB’s is churning out ground beef as fast they can.
The reality of the financial situation for musicians is ever present as the weeks of isolation for COVID-19 prevention continues. Just recently, we hit our eighth confirmed death in Mississippi, with 579 confirmed cases.
“To date I have lost just over $1,000 in cancelled gigs. I have several more in the next month that will likely be cancelled as well,” Greg Johnson said. “I am very fortunate to have a job with benefits. I worry about my friends for whom music is their sole source of income. I think we need to help them out as much as possible right now by donating to their Venmo [and] PayPal accounts.”
Along with the finances, all programming doesn’t have to be put on hold, nor does creating a long-reaching community base. “One of the most interesting outcomes for YAC has been the reach. Programs at the Powerhouse are limited by the four walls but we are seeing responses online to programs that reach beyond the size of the building we manage. Concerts by Silas Reed and Rocket 88 drew 700 viewers each with the additional benefit that the content stays online reaching a new audience as it is shared,” said Wayne Andrews.
Local artists need your assistance now more than ever. Just like the restaurant and music industry, artisans are not allowed to host events where they would typically sell their art. Groups like Quasar are finding a way to move to a virtual setting for the time being, and Hunter Johnson is working towards creating online art classes.
Ashley Lowe of Dark Matter Fabrics is a bit of a different story. Her art hasn’t been affected by Coronvirus in the same way as other artists. “The biggest effect so far has been the extended closures in China where my textile mill is located. This delayed my quoted turnaround time significantly until recently,” said Ashley Lowe.
Ashley’s art is different, in that you wouldn’t hang it on a wall, necessarily.
“I create original, hand drawn art into seamless patterns that are printed and sold primarily as fabric to purchase and sew into anything desired. Most of my clientele sew for a living and want unique art to drive their brands.”
Ashley also has merch that is made in America for people who do not sew, along with canvas prints, plush toys and other cute collectible items.
“Is it scary right now? Incredibly. Being optimistic and interacting is the key to staying on top of where things are currently. I have been focusing daily on giving back with free art projects for my customers and their children who are now at home to help pass the time. Right now people really want to connect with each other while we all navigate these uncertain times together. Having a community based business makes it easy for me to stay in touch.”
You can support Ashley by visiting darkmatterfabric.com.