What Did You Do During The Quar, Daddy?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on Indianapolis, and especially on its community of artists. Still, with crisis comes opportunity, and Indianapolis Monthly contributor Lou Harry asked seven local artists how they’ve used their newfound additional downtime to their advantage.

Larry D. Sweazy

Larry D. Sweazy

Author of 15 Western and mystery novels
What he’s working on:

A memoir

“When COVID-19 hit and the publishing world ground to a halt, I found I had more time on my hands than usual. My June release, The Return of the Wolf, had been moved out to December, and another deadline had been pushed out farther into the future. So it seemed like the perfect time to write the book I’ve always wanted to write and get in touch with stories from my past. The memoir recounts the difficulties of growing up in an abusive household with an alcoholic stepfather, and my journey beyond, overcoming the pain of the past through the unconditional love of my pets. I have owned three Rhodesian ridgebacks. They hate getting wet, but they’ll walk in the rain to be with me. They’ve given me so much love, security, and peace. To have this book complete is a major milestone in my artistic life.”

Manon VoiceManon Voice

Poet and spoken-word artist
What she’s working on:

Her first book of poetry

“Writing a book of poems is so different from writing individual poems. There’s a lot more pressure to be cohesive. It’s taking the reader on a journey, and you have to keep them interested over a long period. I think of the process like sculpting: I start with a lot of words, then I chisel away. I might have 100 poems to start, but only 50 will be useful. It’s also possible that some great poems may not belong in this particular project. I do some spoken word, and that’s very different from writing a book of poems, too. With spoken word, I’m writing something and thinking about the delivery and presentation. I usually get immediate feedback. I can say a line and know it struck a chord—I hear the ‘Mmm.’ There’s a certain call-and-response. With this work, I have no clue. I’m putting myself out there, and I have no idea what hits. But it’s challenging, and I’m excited and thankful to be stretching that muscle.”

Sarah GrainSarah Grain

What she’s working on:

A solo recording and a long-distance collaboration

“After I started sheltering in place in March, I realized quickly that my incredible band (Sarah Grain & the Billions of Stars) had been a creative crutch, and quarantine forced me to go back to my roots as a solo singer/songwriter. It has been wonderful to explore the starkness of my voice, guitar, and lyrics. For several weeks, I played a Facebook Live solo show every Saturday at 5 p.m. It was scary and uncomfortable at first, but I felt like I was finding my voice again. It’s not all solo work, though. Via an app, I’m also collaborating with my friend TJ Reynolds, a hip-hop artist who lives in Boston. For so long, we’ve talked about a long-distance recording, but we never found the time to do it.”

Erica Parker and Rafael CaroErica Parker and Rafael Caro

Co-founders of Blend Creative Minds, a collective of muralists
What they’re working on:

Indy Art and Seek installation

“When the world changed overnight, many of our commissioned projects were put on pause,” Parker says. “It was such a blow because we had some fun murals planned. But the beacon of hope was a project organized by the Indianapolis Arts Council and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful called Indy Art and Seek. More than 100 art installations are going up around the city. I can’t disclose too much on our project yet, but I’m really looking forward to it because we’ll have the means to push our art past a 2-D wall. We’ve also been doing some window painting. It’s a way for businesses to feature temporary, eye-catching artwork, whether to attract customers or just to share a positive message. We’re working with La Canasta, a small chain of Hispanic grocery markets. With our help, these storefronts are getting the attention they deserve.”

Stuart ColemanStuart Coleman

Dancer with Dance Kaleidoscope
What he’s working on:

Choreographing a piece for DK via video

“We’re stuck at home, but we can still dance. And I wanted to see if it was possible to choreograph new material, teach it to my colleagues, have everyone rehearse, and record ourselves separately to create a virtual dance. The piece was inspired by a quote I heard on Westworld, one of my binge TV shows: ‘Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.’ When the project started, we were in a dark time with local arts groups wondering about their next steps. I asked myself, What does this mean for the future of our art form? The piece explores that, featuring nine dancers.”

Frank FeliceFrank Felice

Composer and associate professor of music at Butler University
What’s he working on:

Experimental pieces and a song cycle

“In the spare time I have lately, I’ve been composing a lot of weird, risky things using Ableton Live, software that’s pretty well known in the electroacoustic musical community. I’m trying to push its boundaries to see what it can do beyond the usual things it does well: loop-based performance pieces, sample playback, etc. But perhaps my most ambitious project this year has been writing a song cycle about Hildegarde of Bingen (a 12th-century German saint). These were originally commissioned by a Florida soprano who premiered the first one. I’m composing the remaining three for my wife, Mitzi Westra, to be a part of a recording of mezzo-soprano song cycles that I’ve written. The pianist will be Greg Martin, who has done wonderful work with the Ronen Ensemble.”


Tom Horan and Paige ScottTom Horan and Paige Scott

Playwright-in-residence at the Phoenix Theatre and freelance performance artist, respectively
What they’re working on:

A musical, Mirror Girls

Scott: “It’s a three-woman pop musical about the turn-of-the-century It Girl, Evelyn Nesbit, and the events leading to the Madison Square Murder and the Trial of the Century. We’ve put a #MeToo/Times Up spin on the 1907 tale about surviving something out of your control.”

Horan: “We’ve been using Zoom for readings, with Paige playing the score and singing through the whole thing while the actors read the parts. We were even able to bring in a dramaturge—an editor for theater productions—from Chicago. That would have been an expensive process if we weren’t doing the whole thing remotely.”

Photos by Tony Valainis.