COVID-19 and the Creative Process(es)

Seven Interviews from Chicago—Introduction


A few months ago, the rapid spread of the COIVD-19 global pandemic seemed like the definitive issue of 2020. There was no way to predict that a national and even international rise of civil disobedience and social disruption in response to systemic racism would overpower the fear and necessity of quarantine. But it justifiably and rightly has and will continue to do so. Less shocking but still disturbing is the further descent into authoritarian reactionism on the part of the administration and its enablers in the government and national media. In spite of this, I have to confess I was struck with a greater sense of fear and anxiety back at the end of March when cities began to rapidly shut down and people started losing their jobs. The fear had less to do with my health and financial well-being than for something broader. The media was abuzz with talk of looming death tolls and economic decline, and though these are relevant and practical concerns, it was what was not being discussed that worried me. I imagined all the things that would slip through the cracks; the poor and marginalized, a shared sense of safety and community, culture itself, and all the harmful actions of a regime that so many had been openly fighting without the hurdle of quarantine. For anyone who had ever mused upon the coming of a second dark age, it felt as though it had arrived.

This fear was only amplified by the narrow public discourse around the crisis of the pandemic. I know that in such an emergency, it is important to keep people informed first and foremost. But the questions of what culture could do and how it might change lingered in my mind. So, I decided to search for answers by reaching out to members of Chicago’s large and diverse arts community. We had long conversations with our seven interviewees (Quenna Barrett, Jessica Campbell Carlos Flores, Stevie Hanley, Patric McCoy, Jessica Stockholder, and Lori Waxman)  that were commiserative, uplifting, cathartic, contemplative, and informative. It was not only restorative to simply just connect with people but refreshing to hear from folks who think critically about the world on a daily basis. Though things are changing and have changed a great deal since these conversations took place, it is my hope that they can continue to provide relief, comfort, insight, and inspiration as we move forward into uncertain times. I know I found these discussions helpful, and if you are reading this, I hope you do too.


Evan Carter


Here are the first three interviews. The next four interviews of Jessica Campbell, Carlos Flores, Stevie Hanley, and Patric McCoy will appear in the next quarter after July .


Quenna Barrett

Quenna Lené Barrett is a Chicago-based theater artist + practitioner, developing programs to amplify teen + community voice and hold space to rehearse, tell, and change the stories of their lives. She is currently the Associate Director of Education and Engagement at Goodman Theatre, and has developed two applied theatre  programs at the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life.  She is a company member with the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health’s For Youth Inquiry, Associate Artist with Pivot Arts, co-curator for Theatre on the Lake, and artist-in-residence at Free Street Theatre. Quenna received her BFA from NYU Tisch in Drama, her MA in Applied Theatre from the University of Southern California, and is a doctoral candidate in Educational Theatre at NYU Steinhardt. Continuing to build the world she wants to see/live in, she is developing practices of poetic and participatory performance, and is re-writing the Declaration of Independence. Sort of.


Jessica Stockholder

Jessica Stockholder was born in 1959 in Seattle, Washington and currently lives and works in Chicago, Illinois. She has exhibited widely in museums and galleries internationally. Her solo exhibitions include shows at The Power Plant, Toronto (2000); MoMA PS1, New York (2006); the Musée d’art moderne, Saint-Étienne Métropole, France (2012). Her work is represented in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Whitney Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angles (MOCA); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA); the Museum of Fine Arts–Boston; the British Museum, London; and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Stockholder had her third solo exhibition at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, “The Guests All Crowded Into the Dining Room,” in the fall of 2016 and a solo exhibition titled “Relational Aesthetics” at The Contemporary Austin in 2018. Currently, she is the subject of a solo exhibition titled “Stuff Matters” at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Lori Waxman

Lori Waxman (Chicago, USA) is a Chicago-based critic and art historian. Her reviews and articles have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Artforum,, Modern Painters, Gastronomica, Parkett, Tema Celeste, as well as the defunct Parachute, New Art Examiner and FGA. She has written catalogue essays for small and large art spaces, including: Spertus Museum, Chicago; threewalls, Chicago; SPACES Gallery, Cleveland; Institute of Visual Art, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Turpentine Gallery, Reykjavik; and Dieu Donné Papermill, New York.

She has published essays on Arturo Herrera, Jenny Holzer, William Cordova, Eugenia Alter Propp, Raissa Venables, Gordon Matta-Clark, Joel Sternfeld, Emily Jacir, Taryn Simon, Ranbir Kaleka and Christa Donner. Waxman teaches art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has a PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, where her doctoral research considered urban walking as a revolutionary aesthetic practice of the 20th century. She received a Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant (2008) for her project 60 wrd/min art critic, which is traveling to venues around the United States through 2011.




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