Most Friday mornings, Houston photographer and sound artist Lynn Lane walks a couple of blocks from his Northside home to Herrera’s Cafe for breakfast with friends from the arts community. He calls it "Arts Chat and Tacos."
Lane started the gatherings as a community-building exercise with the added bonus of supporting the tiny, family-owned restaurant. There’s a loose “no networking” rule in place, so there’s no pitching projects or pleas to be hired. Most weeks, the crowd numbers around a dozen or so visual and performing artists, designers, writers, composers, filmmakers, and arts advocates.
Then COVID-19 hit. Social distancing became the norm and restaurants went to take-out only. Just when the arts community was reeling as company after company canceled performances; scores of actors, musicians, dancers and technicians were furloughed; and everyone was feeling isolated and confused, Lane was forced to suspend the gatherings.
Like most Houston artists, Lane lost work assignments and was obliged to isolate at home. “For me this pandemic has been beyond horrible personally. I’ve lost every shoot that I had for this season,” he says. Along with photographic assignments, Lane, the founder, artistic director, and sound artist of the Transitory Sound and Movement Collective, had to cancel the group’s upcoming season of performances.
Lane says the Arts Chat and Tacos gatherings were a way to connect with people while stepping away from social media and phones or computers. “Now though, we are in a different world,” he says. “Finding a way to keep this community dialogue alive during this pandemic has made me rethink how to do that, and so the logical way would be via the Zoom platform.”
Lane put out a few messages on Facebook, inviting friends and got an encouraging response. On March 27, Lane opened up a virtual version of Arts Chat and Tacos.
“People joined from India, New York, Texas, and DC,” Lane says. There were a couple of technical hiccups, he admits, but those were quickly resolved and the conversation was lively once it got going.
“We talked about everything happening in the university/education world to all aspects of the arts and performing arts,” says Lane. “We also talked about how we are working through this as individual artists in this time of isolation.”
Lane has another Arts Chat and Tacos session planned for next week as well as group planning sessions for Transitory Sound and Movement Collective, both using the Zoom platform.