This pandemic has left us all feeling unsettled, vacillating between acceptance and fear.
We have felt gratitude for the forced slow down which allows us to embrace the present, simplify our lives, and see more clearly what brings joy and what merely distracts. Then plunged into an acute existential dread at what this pandemic is doing to our new sense of normal, where a hug from a friend is a dangerous thing, our balance and boundaries are wearing thin, and menacing economic uncertainty darkens everything. For John Michael Schert and Brett Perry, supporting community, creative work and paying it forward has illuminated a path forward in these challenging times.
Like all of us, Schert and Perry had big plans before the abrupt halt that is coronavirus. Both work with Treefort and March 9th, when the decision was made to reschedule the festival, they sensed the momentous disruption covid-19 would cause. Perry, a dancer for local company LED and several other choreographers around the country, had an exciting summer tour across the US cancelled while Schert, a creative leadership consultant, had to shelve a leadership project he had just finalized in the Middle East. Schert remembers “feeling that we immediately needed to redeploy all of our energies and skills to our community by creating networks of support.” Schert, along with the Treefort Leadership team, Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts and Boise City Department of Arts and History created the Covid Cultural Commissioning Fund (CCC).
The CCC is an award program to provide funding for the creation of individual works exploring, documenting and/or reflecting on personal experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our community. The goals of this fund are to support creative livelihoods during crisis, but also to encourage creative self-expression and document this extraordinary time. Schert and Perry both feel deeply that creative work matters, and this pandemic has exposed our interconnectedness and need for collective expression. Shert asserts, “It is crucial to put the creative sector into decision making roles. We need to use creative work as a catalyst to change the narrative and formulate ideas and solutions for how we innovate our way out of this pandemic.”
During the shelter-in-place they have also become more grounded, literally, growing food in conjunction with Meadowlark farm. Perry started an FSA, friend supported agriculture, and started sharing his bounty and knowledge with those around him. This pandemic has shown us that community isn’t just our family and friends, it is also our neighbors and favorite shops. “We’ve lived in our house for nine years and we really hadn’t gotten to know our neighbors. Now we have a community greenhouse and our alley has become the gathering place for the neighborhood as we do gardening and home improvement projects.” Perry and Schert volunteer each Saturday at the Boise Farmer’s Market, supporting local entrepreneurs and farmers and firmly encourage all those around them to shop local and share the love. “We realize we are privileged to still have one income and the means to help,” says Schert. “We believe it is our duty to use that privilege to help others. Community is a web of vertical and horizontal connections. Vertical are systems like health care and career and horizontal is our relationship to each other. When the vertical is failing us, it is our horizontal bonds of humanity that will keep us afloat.”