EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – At the start of the pandemic, Broadway performances were cancelled, gallery showings were postponed, and workshops stopped.

Two East Lansing creators shared what they learned from the pandemic as artists come back to the stage, canvas and classroom.

“It took me a couple of weeks to process that “hey, I think my project might not work” because we didn’t know how long it would last. I didn’t know if chamber music would be possible for years and that is not what I wanted out of this project,” said composer Spencer Arias.

Arias has been studying for a doctorate in composing at Michigan State University since 2019. He said he began collaborating on an album with different musicians that would be his final project just days before the university moved online due to COVID-19.

Switching gears meant working with a smaller group. Arias said the group continued working over Zoom and even postcards. Many of those letters ended up feeding the music and lyrics. He said one of the lessons learned was changing your space can lead to new creative thinking.

“Different types of artistic practices require different types of working spaces. By switching it up by not working in a public space I was able to rethink some of my artistic practices,” he said.

Educators, like Jacqui Carroll, said they also had to change how they created art during the pandemic. Carroll runs a photography workshop, Community Darkroom 517 in East Lansing with two other women.

She said the photography group was in the middle of its first set of classes when the pandemic started. Carroll said the group brought film out of the dark room and into the community with take home kits and outdoor workshops. One workshop invited guests to make images with fabric soaked in light sensitive liquids.

“We asked community members to engage in the process of making cyanic types,” she explained. “We took those pieces and put them together to make masks.”

Carroll and Arais said the pandemic taught them how to adjust art to life’s unexpected changes but they said they’re excited for brighter times ahead as COVID rates decline.

“There is nothing like standing next to each other in the same space and looking at the same work in someone’s hands and oohing and ahing over it,” Carroll said.

Both artists were awarded grants by the East Lansing Arts Commission for projects that encouraged community engagement or highlighted LBGTQ and people of color contributions to the arts.

Carroll said her photography group looks forward to more summer workshops. Arais said the grant will help him and other musicians host an improvised music and multimedia concert at the East Lansing Pump House on April 8th.