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Arizona Artists Level Up During The Holidays As COVID-19 Cases Spike

By Tom Maxedon
Published: Tuesday, December 8, 2020 - 5:10am
Updated: Monday, March 8, 2021 - 1:47pm

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Lady Caress
Caress Russell, aka Lady Caress, is a Valley-based poet and performer. Prior to the pandemic, Russell toured across the country on a routine basis, but she's been using social media to reinvent herself and continue to engage audiences.

As the holiday season unfurls, coronavirus cases continue to climb.

But the Valley arts community remains resolute in minimizing the limitations of COVID-19 while staying connected to their creativity and the audiences who support it.  

For artists whose income has been decimated over the last nine months, many continue to level up with renewed thinking at a time of year that’s usually extremely busy for them whether it’s jam sessions, exhibitions, in-person performances or even seasonal workshops.

There's few more colorful at taking it to another level than Caress Russell, aka Lady Caress.

Recently on social media, she posted a beat-box poem and showed inspiration can be found in anything during tough times, even something as simple as a sandwich.

Lady Caress has long been using social media for promotion of her poetry and performance art.

But, as she said on her debut vidcast of “The Lady Caress Show” early this month, it’s been a huge adjustment. “Dude, I was on tour like every night and then now having to transition onto Zoom, it's definitely an entirely new situation. It's an entirely new vibe. I mean, it calls for a brand new type of energy,” she said.

Russell highlighted tips to succeeding as a performer for digital audiences, stressing engagement as key to keeping them coming back for more.

Organizations that sponsor artists are also mindful of how to provide safe viewing experiences for audiences until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available.

Xico Arte y Cultura and Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation
Cora J. Quiroz (left) and Piersten Doctor paint a mural on a shipping container this fall. The project was presented by Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation in collaboration with Xico Arte y Cultura.

UNCONTAINED is a new mural project in the Roosevelt Row Arts district.

Nicole Underwood, communications director for its Community Development Corporation, said there’s an opening for visual artists to submit their portfolios.

“We are looking for emerging artists, so artists who typically have not had the opportunities to be able to paint murals so that they have a platform they can showcase their work and it’s in a prominent space in Roosevelt Row. That doesn’t necessarily mean age. So, sometimes emerging artists are still 30, 40 years old and up,” she said.

Artists can submit their work until Dec. 11 and those chosen will, “showcase their stories on a prominent shipping container in the district,” according to Underwood.

This project is a continued partnership with Xico Arte y Cultura and previous containers were converted into pop-up galleries to exhibit artwork. “But obviously during COVID-19 they haven’t been able to program the spaces because we don’t want to encourage people to occupy a gallery space that’s very small quarters,” she said.

The container is located just south of Roosevelt on First Avenue.

Underwood said the project seeks to elevate emerging Latino and indigenous artists. It also gives audiences a way to engage in community art during the pandemic outside until it’s safer to move into closer environs.  

“Flow tight like a black fist press em til they show respect for Kaepernick.

When I step in I change the atmosphere, Queen is on the scene raised by Peter Gunz and that EPMD relaxed with pep, she come to MC.

I don’t have to say nothing they can tell by my energy you wanna think twice b4 offendin me they know who real these others scam likely.”

Those are some lyrics from part of a track called, “Scam Likely,” written last year by singer, songwriter, lyricist, producer and teacher Arian Nicole.

The title seems prescient for 2020, as most of us feel like we got robbed in one way or another.

M.L. Visions Photography
Arian Nicole is a Valley-based hip hop artist, lyricist, songwriter and teacher. She is hosting a virtual workshop called "Music is Alive" on Dec. 11. It explores the powerful impact of art and sound on our mood, perception and senses.

But Nicole is pressing on in spite of tough times with a Dec. 11 interactive workshop exploring how art, sound and literature influence our mood, perception, and senses.

“We’re going to use the mediums of audio, visual and literature. We’re going to talk about the relationship between art and life and engaging in exploration that shifts our perceptions. It’s open. It’s free flowing, going into our creativity and being able to participate actively. You’re going to create a piece of your own,” she said.

One positive byproduct of the pandemic for Nicole has been the opportunity for personal growth and thereby perseverance.  

“You know how like when a seed hits the ground and then the bud hits the light of day? You may think you can uproot it but you can’t because the roots are so deep. And so, I just take this time to really shoot my roots down deep so that I have a really firm foundation so that when I sprout up I have staying power,” she said.

Tireless Valley artists like Nicole prove after nine months of reinventing themselves that’s a good reason to celebrate this holiday season.

All they ask is to remember them on our gift lists.

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