pandemic diaries: spring break

After three plus weeks of sheltering in place, today marks a return to "distance learning" for the remainder of the school year. That's eight (8) weeks. Welp! It sounds overwhelming - and it is - but I'm trying to remind myself that I survived an entire summer break (that's 10 weeks) with both kids home every day. The downside right now, of course, is that there's nowhere to go, but that's also kind of the upside. In other words, I don't have to dream up some exciting plan or outing for each day. They have their schoolwork, plus, y'know, screen-time; I have work. If we get bored, there are always National Days to celebrate (happy caramel popcorn day!). Assuming we can squeeze in enough exercise and fresh air every day, we've got this!

Before we dive into the rest of the school year, however, let's update the pandemic diaries, spring break edition. What does one do for spring break while sheltering in place, parents still working from home? Not much, but we managed to squeeze in a few things:

I know some people are taking this extremely seriously and literally staying home, all the time, never leaving their homes (or back yards, if they have them). So far, we've been able to walk the neighborhood without feeling like really any area within walking distance is even remotely crowded (unlike our hike attempt early on). So we've gone on A LOT of neighborhood walks and "urban hikes," even making it all the way to the Mormon Temple and back, which is a roughly 4-mile round trip.

That said, one day, bored with all our local walking options, we decided to walk around the Temescal neighborhood instead. We picked up vegan ice cream sandwiches we ordered online from Curbside Creamery and even "ran into" (more accurately, we said hello from 6+ feet away) a teacher from the kids' elementary school.

Thursday was our 15th wedding anniversary. We celebrated with a special, mid-week donut run and later, this past weekend, attempted to make a cake that tasted something like the Erica torte we had at our wedding from the now-closed Katrina Rozelle's.

This wasn't my first, or even second, attempt at recreating our wedding cake.

While I wanted to protest Easter when this all started (everything else is canceled, why shouldn't Easter be??), I've since come around to the idea and, less than a week away now, we're mostly ready for a minimal holiday celebration.

In the meantime, back to #wfhwithkids. Wish me luck and stay well, y'all!


pandemic diaries: the first two weeks

Oakland's school district announced on March 13th that schools would close for 3 weeks* (2 weeks + Spring Break). Since then, it's been a whirlwind couple of weeks of 13-14 hour nonstop days, redefining work-life balance/integration, figuring out how to work from home, which I always do, but with the kids home, too. Ah, to homeschool or not homeschool, that was the question! Following up on this post, here's a round-up of how the first couple of weeks went. (*By the way, since beginning this post earlier this week, all Bay Area school districts have announced that schools will be closed until at least early May. Given the school year ends for us at the end of May, I'm not holding my breath that things will return to any kind of normal before fall.)

As my Grandma pointed out when I called her last weekend, I'm a "planner" so, while a lot of other parents were treating this like an extended cross-country flight (translation: unlimited snacks and screentime), I created a schedule, inspired largely by the National Day Calendar. I should add that, while this is an unprecedented situation and we're well into uncharted territory by now, parents in Oakland have had a small preview of this due to wildfires and resulting smoke, scheduled power outages to prevent said wildfires, and a 10-day teacher strike last spring. In other words, this ain't our first rodeo. With that, here's what I've done to supplement my kids' instructional plans being sent home daily/weekly:
  • Made a couple of art ASMR videos, here and here. (Is art ASMR a thing?)
  • The only way I'm even remotely interacting with people outside my immediate family is grocery shopping. I've been to Trader Joe's twice, and Safeway and Pet Food Express once each. TJs is doing an incredible job. I hope their employees stay healthy and get raises.
  • Cleaned the house as a family on Sunday morning. Hello, chores! And, likely, allowances.
  • Did my nails.
  • Finished Pandemic on Netflix.
  • Put together a suggested pandemic "shelfie" for creatives.
  • Started re-reading 'The Plague' by Albert Camus and 'Diary of a Young Girl' by Anne Frank.
  • We've been going on A LOT of neighborhood walks, literally walking in circles, but still seeing cool stuff, and meeting all the friendly neighborhood cats.
  • We attempted a hike last weekend but I fear hiking is short-lived due to the impossibility of proper social distancing given how incredibly busy it was. 
  • That said, running around the lake while 6-footing it can still be done so long as you run at 6 a.m.

Today is officially the first day of Spring Break, through next week. We should have been on our way to Seattle by now (of all places), but obviously that trip was canceled a few weeks ago. We have no structure for what would be no-school days, no daily instructional plans (I live-tweeted the first day here), but I did put some of that National Day inspiration into a Spring Break bingo card in case the kids get bored. You can access that document here.

By the way, if you're stuck at home and think you might like to receive some free art in the mail to brighten your day, you can fill out this form, part of an ongoing mail art project I started a couple of months ago. For the time being I'm mostly sending out 5x7 CMYK screenprints from this grad school project. So long as USPS is operating.

Stay home and stay healthy, friends!


everything is canceled

Hello, hi, how's everyone holding up?? It's officially day one (sorry, weekends don't count) of staying the bleep home, working from home (as I'm so lucky to always do), with the kids home for the next three weeks (including Spring Break), at least. I wanted to write a quick update to let y'all know what we're doing, in case any of this is helpful. I've seen a lot of pushback to the idea of homeschooling kids during this unprecedented time. Which, hey, if unstructured time and unlimited access to screens works for you, more power to you! Seriously, do what works for you. But, as a working parent who’s experienced various (some as long as 10 weeks) stretches of NOT working with kids at home, now that I have a job, the first thing I did when I learned our schools would close is create a schedule.

In Oakland, between wildfires, power outages, and a teacher strike last spring, this ain’t our first rodeo. The difference this time is knowing from the outset that we’ve got at least 3 weeks of this. During last year’s teacher strike I had the same attitude about schedules & academics - pshaw, I said! Let's take advantage of this opportunity to have NO schedule! Key difference now (in addition to having a job) is social distancing. Nothing’s open! Three weeks, spent mostly inside a smallish home with two bickering siblings who aren’t the most self-directed individuals? They need structure. I need structure. It’s also an opportunity to think about education differently. Watch documentaries, learn about the tech behind the video games they play, cook something new, make clay with flour. It’ll be fun!

Additionally, a recurrent theme lately is how to manage your and your kids’ anxiety around all this. Guess how I manage my anxiety? I plan stuff, I put things on my calendar, I use my calendar to visualize how I'm going to get through the next three (plus?) weeks. I realize I can’t control everything (anything?) but this gives me back some sense of agency. Most kids benefit from a sense of normalcy and routine, especially during times of increased chaos. My kids, although they’d love endless screen time for a day or two, would be hot messes by day 3. With that, if you're curious to see what I have planned for the rest of the week (and I'll update this document with next week's plan once I get around to it), I've shared a view-only version of our "schedule" here.

Finally, for some comic relief, I wrote a coronavirus/COVID19 parody to the tune of 'Everything Is Awesome." Everything is canceled, and if it's not, it should be. Sing along!

Everything is canceled,
everything is closed due to COVID-19,

Everything is canceled,
‘cause we’re social distancing.

Trying to remember we’re in this together
Do our part, you and I, a social endeavor
Reduce spread however.

Work from home, if you can,
if you can’t, better start saving your money.

Everything is canceled,
everything is closed due to COVID-19,

Everything is canceled,
‘cause we’re social distancing.

Woo! Three, two, one, go!
Did you scrap that cruise? Bad time to travel.
Probably should, ‘cause everything is canceled.
Little kids seem to have some immunity
But schools close if there’s a case in the community.

An updated sample of canceled examples:
The NBA suspended its season,
St. Patti’s parades, for good reason.
TV talk shows with studios abandoned.
GDC, and college classes.
Coachella’s canceled, even Sunday masses.

Trying to remember we’re in this together
Do our part, you and I, a social endeavor
Reduce spread however.

Work from home, if you can,
if you can’t, better start saving your money.

Everything is canceled,
everything is closed due to COVID-19,

Everything is canceled,
‘cause we’re social distancing.

Social distancing, what exactly does that mean?
Isolation or quarantine
You know what’s canceled? Everything!
School field trips, gatherings
Use a tissue when you sneeze
Do your part, however you can
Flatten the curve, that’s the plan.

Sports, church, shows, they’re canceled!
Trips, fests, races, they’re canceled!
Festival of art, it’s canceled!
Everything you watch or buy or play is canceled.

Everything is canceled,
everything is closed due to COVID-19,

Everything is canceled,
‘cause we’re social distancing.



As I hinted at in my last post about all the art I saw in 2019, I wanted to also write a little bit about time spent in the studio last year.

In short, I shelved one project and began another, thanks in large part to participating in the 100 Day Project beginning in April. Here are some images from that effort (as well as a few studio scenes), collectively titled '100 Days in the Dollhouse':

You can see more images from this ongoing project here. I still, nearly one year later, consider myself to be in the collection-of-raw-materials portion of this body of work, not totally certain where it'll go (it'd be swell to have a space of some sort lined up for an installation of some kind). And, now that I'm working again, albeit part-time, I don't have a ton of time to devote to the studio. That said, inspired by this recent Life Kit podcast episode hosted by Malaka Gharib (mentioned in my last post, about the decade zine challenge), wherein she interviews art therapy researcher and professor Girija Kaimal--who talks about TGIS, or Thank God It's Saturday, her time for getting into the studio--I'm attempting to carve out a couple of hours at least one weekend afternoon for dedicated studio time, even if I'm feeling unmotivated, even if I'm not sure exactly what to work on. After some morning family time and lunch, once my kids settle down for afternoon free (okay, screen) time, I lock myself in my studio and FIGURE. IT. OUT.

So now I've shared images of art I saw and stuff I made. There's also this third category of images of things or experiences that inspired me in one way or another last year. Those images I've put into a little look book of sorts: 2019 inspiration for 2020. I can't wait to get it (should arrive early next week) and use it as a resource in my studio.

I wonder how other working parent artists find inspiration and carve out studio time, don't you? I'd really, really love to get to work on season 2 of the podcast, interviewing artists who not only juggle paid gigs with studio time, but have also decided to throw a kid or two into the mix, but I'm worried if I do so it'll be at the expense of my own creative practice and/or time needed to finish the damn screenplay already. So, as I often say, we'll see. I'm mulling it over and trying to figure out how, as always, to squeeze it all in.


to all the art I saw last year

My "top nine" Instagram images last year were, as usual, mostly other artists' work.

It'd be cool to flip that some year (although, isn't Instagram doing away with likes?), but in the meantime, it made me realize I/we (since I usually drag my kids along) see a lot of great art each year!

In fact, we've already been to SFMOMA once this year, since my membership was renewed as a Christmas gift. Before I get into 2020 shows, however, I thought I'd do a 2019 round-up of art I saw (implying there will at some point be a post about art I made).

First up, Masako Miki at BAMPFA:

Next: Making (It) Work - a show about juggling art and parenthood, one of my favorite topics and theoretically the subject matter of an eventual second season of my podcast - at one of CCA's galleries on the Oakland campus.

Althea Murphy-Price, Goody Girl no.2, 2018

Then we saw Altered States at Bedford Gallery (they put on four fantastic, family-friendly shows each year - we make a point to go to every one).

Kids watching Klea McKenna's ALMA

That was followed by the much-anticipated Vija Celmins show at SFMOMA. I was familiar with her work from grad school but really pleasantly surprised by her replicas of natural objects from specific sites (I have a thing for copies/replicas and duplicates, specifically).

Hans Hoffman is another artist I thought I knew pretty well but discovered a lot of pieces I'd never seen before at The Nature of Abstraction exhibition at BAMPFA.

For Spring Break we traveled to Joshua Tree, spending a day that week in Palm Springs, including time at the Palm Springs Art Museum, where I discovered several artists' work I wasn't previously familiar with, including Sonia Falcone:

Sonia Falcone, Campo de Color (Color Field), 2017.

Later in the spring we finally hiked the portion of San Francisco's Presidio that's home to several Andy Goldsworthy pieces:

Also around this time I attended a reading by Austin Kleon at a local bookstore and got ALL the books signed. This counts as "art I saw," right?

During the first week of the kids' summer break, we visited the Cartoon Art Museum for the first time.

Looking through A Fire Story by Brian Fies was incredibly powerful.

Next up, another show at the Bedford Gallery - Tradition Interrupted. I was especially intrigued by the work of Ramekon O'Arwisters.

In June we traveled to Washington, DC, where we visited the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery.

We also, of course, saw Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans' Memorial:

Later that same trip we traveled slightly south to Virginia for my niece's high school graduation. While there, we visited the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. By far the highlight of that museum trip was seeing Theaster Gates' Glass Lantern Slide Pavilion, created in 2011, in person:

Man, do I love his work. In June, I went to the retrospective of another one of my favorite artists, Suzanne Lacy, first to the portion at SFMOMA, sans kids:

And later to We Are Here, the portion at YBCA, with kids. This part of the retrospective was all about Lacy's Oakland-based project The Roof Is On Fire, which I wrote about, briefly, here.

Around 4th of July I took the kids back to SFMOMA for two shows in particular: the mail art show (snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks), which made me desperately want to update and teach my 2007-09 class - Art from Ephemera: Mail Art to the Internet. Sigh.

So much good work in that show. From there we went on to the Andy Warhol exhibition, which the kids thoroughly dug.

Later in July we took a day trip to Sacramento, visiting the Crocker Art Museum for the first time, primarily to see the work of painter Richard Jackson.

I also had my first actual Artomat experience there (I learned about the "Artists in Cellophane" when I was in grad school. My dream job is to open a cafe/gallery/reading room and get an Artomat for the space).

Right before the school year started, it was back to the Bedford Gallery for BlowUP II: Inflatable Contemporary Art. The kids were big fans of this show, as you might expect (even if slightly disappointed that they couldn't actually hug the art this time).

Shortly after school started, I visited the gallery at Kala Art Institute for the first time in ages (last time was when I worked as an administrator for the Achenbach Graphic Arts Council, pre grad school) for their show of 2018-19 residency projects. My favorite was Dahn Gim's Untitled (Peace of You).

In September, on my final day of unemployment-by-choice before I began my current paid gig, I went to the Richmond Art Center (another first!) to see the work of fellow art podcaster Nicole Mueller.

In November, we made it to the final Bedford Gallery show of the year, Off Menu: Contemporary Art About Food. My favorite piece was this one, The Processed Twenty, by Ruth Santee.

It's a nice piece to end with, don't you think (as we begin the 20s)? 

But wait, there's more! It's not exactly something I saw, but rather a little thing I made (which provides a nice segue to my next post about art I made in 2019, assuming I get around to writing that at some point soon) in response to the decade zine challenge proposed to the world by Malaka Gharib (a challenge that was also accepted by Austin Kleon, mentioned above, which is how I saw it). Here's mine:

I've really enjoyed following her (mostly on Instagram) over the past week. Check out her latest effort - a podcast episode and zine YOU CAN DOWNLOAD AND PRINT about how to create an art habit. If indeed making art is good for your mental health, this will be a good habit to develop this year, don't you think?