Editor’s Note: This story is part of the annual Mosaic Journalism Workshop for Bay Area High School Students, a two-week intensive journalism course. Students in the program report and photograph stories under the guidance of professional journalists.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many aspects of daily life, including education, work and housing. Art and culture, achieved through performances and people, have also been hit enormously in San Jose.
Imran Najam-Noveno, associated with public programs and communications at the Institute of Contemporary Art in San Jose, and artist Creo Noveno-Najam opened a DIY gallery called 3F in Japantown in April 2019. art space was community oriented, with a philosophy to create a space for local and emerging artists in the Bay Area. Then came the pandemic.
“We could have made our own works of art, but during the time there was no one on the streets,” said Najam-Noveno.
As the space was self-financed, the five people involved had to raise funds to keep the gallery open. It closed in March 2020.
“The opportunities that have disappeared as a result of the pandemic have made it difficult for creatives to survive,” added Creo Noveno-Najam. They hope to reopen their space one day.
Globo Cons, a band made up of San Jose high school students – Will King, Jesse Zalk and Aidan Shattuck – also had its struggles during this time. Describing their music as “the modern evolution of rock and roll,” King said his music writing suffered when the pandemic began.
“Basically I had lost all ability to write words,” he said. “It seemed like so little was happening that I felt I could write correctly.”
The band will release their second album, “Billy and the Hummus Men”, in July and will play music from it on June 25 at San Jose’s Art Boutiki. But Zalk said there is still a danger in exhibiting after the pandemic. Because of this new drive to get back out there, artists don’t always think about the health and safety of all people.
“I think the collective spark among young people for creation is inspiring, but a lot of empathy is lost along the way due to the urgency that is now evident,” said Zalk.
Cherri Lakey, co-owner of the Anno Domini Gallery in downtown San Jose, has a different perspective. The gallery, rooted in street art and artistic activism, opened as soon as Santa Clara County allowed retail operations to reopen during the pandemic.
“Why if art is useless in moments of crisis and loneliness, when is it?” Lakey said. “Our foot traffic had definitely decreased, but everyone who was here needed it and it was a learning moment.”
DJing for more than 20 years, Rick Villa has seen a drastic change in his Bay Area business. The pandemic has led to the cancellation of large gatherings like weddings and graduation parties, and those events are where DJs are often hired. He said DJs had to reshape their marketing and are still struggling today.
“Many have had to reinvent themselves by using online platforms to get their music out,” he said, “and I’ve seen DJs struggle and have a hard time.”
But he hopes that the premises will continue to reopen and that things can return to the way they once were.