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Skidmore College

Skidmore faculty create and share art during pandemic

April 30, 2020
by Angela Valden

Joel Brown’s new song “Everyone’s Gone Home” and its accompanying video, filled with images that he, his wife and neighbors took in Saratoga Springs, tell a story that is both personal and universal in the time of COVID-19.

“The inspiration for this song came from the lonely feeling of walking through town and seeing how empty it was, seeing stores closed that were supposed to be busy and sidewalks empty that were supposed to be filled with people. But it's also about being home with people who are important to you,” said Brown, who teaches guitar as a distinguished artist-in-residence at Skidmore.

He is among a number of Skidmore faculty and staff members who, through their own art and expression, are hoping to contribute to a greater sense of community as we all face this pandemic together.

As over 10,000 people and counting watch the video Brown made with the help of his son, Jason ’00, a musician and engineer who owns Starling Studios in Saratoga Springs, Brown says it is gratifying to see that so many people can relate to its message, which ultimately conveys hope and optimism in the human spirit.

It is a “wonderful, compelling, evocative song that speaks to this moment that we’re all living through,” said President Philip A. Glotzbach. “It talks about what we’re experiencing in our daily lives.”

Lisa Grady-Willis, visiting assistant professor and associate director of Intergroup Relations, is using her poetry to spread a powerful message of hope and support to students.

“We miss your spirit and your energy, we know that you are deeply affected by this on multiple levels and we believe in your ability to make it through,” she said.

She wrote and recorded “To College Students: On Feeling Forgotten and Not Forgetting” after having seen her own students and her own son, a college sophomore, struggle through the challenges and transitions associated with the pandemic.

“I want to make our hearts visible to them. I want them to know that we care,” she said.

While Artist-in-Residence Sylvia Stoner-Hawkins '94 and her family shelter at home, they continue to use music to make connections and maintain community.

She and her husband Wayne, accompanied by their daughter, recently performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for their neighbors.

Neighbor Brian Van Sise, who has been shooting “porchtraits” of local families and posting them on their neighborhood Facebook page, recorded the performance.

“As ‘artists-in-residence,’ we decided to dress up for our porchtraits as an opera singer, jazz pianist and ballerina,” said Stoner-Hawkins. “It is a wonderful way to not feel so alone in exile and to get to know your community.”

As for the song choice, Stoner-Hawkins says "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" has always been a favorite, since they moved from Kansas.

“We all wish that we could ‘wish upon a star’ and put these clouds behind us,” she said. “The song reminds us that blue skies will return and our dreams can come true.”

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