In early 2021, as the worldwide pandemic continued into a second year, El Paso Community College (EPCC) Art Professor Isadora Stowe saw a way to help people by producing a publication that documented the pandemic experiences of EPCC students, faculty and staff as well as artists and writers from the region.
She explains, “Artists can be an antidote in times of chaos, a roadmap for greater clarity, a force of resistance and repair, creating new records, new languages and new images.”
Through the support of an EPCC Faculty Development mini-grant, which faculty can apply for to accomplish short-term projects, Professor Stowe published Life In The Time, a physical book and website that’s a shared record of what it’s been like to live with COVID-19.
The project captures individual experiences of the pandemic, translated into artistic representation. Through these different translations, something bigger emerged: the collective connection of this shared experience.
To accomplish her ambitious goal, Professor Stowe partnered with BorderSenses, an El Paso non-profit book publisher whose goal is to provide a voice to visual artists of the region and to provide a venue of artistic growth to improve the quality of the community.
Publisher Amit K. Ghosh, “Because of EPCC we were able to provide art and photography, and stories and poems in English and Spanish from contributors-established, emerging and spoken word artists from all walks of life. This book is intended to be a time capsule of this particular period of our border’s history.”
Some of those emerging artists Ghosh mentions include EPCC students, whose contributions were solicited with help from the Chrysalis, an annual journal that is staffed by EPCC students and features their literary work and visual art.
Managing Editor for the project and EPCC English faculty Ricardo D. Marrufo echoes the importance of giving a platform to new artists, such as EPCC students, through this project. “While we were able to include established artists and writers in the collection, I love that we were also able to publish the work of so many for the first time. This is invaluable and hopefully just the beginning for those ready to embark on their creative journey.
It’s because of dynamic and talented faculty like Marrufo and Stowe and other EPCC Faculty who submitted work for the book that students get access to meaningful opportunities such as this one. Marrufo continues, “I’ve loved teaching English at EPCC for almost a decade now and being able to work on and complete this book project via the college emphasizes the school’s commitment to building and strengthening our communities – including the arts, which means the world to me.”
In addition to being available online and on file with the Smithsonian Archives of American Art, print copies of Life In The Time can be purchased. Physical copies of the book are also available at EPCC libraries and El Paso Public Libraries.
Professor Stowe says that it’s been an honor to curate the submissions of artwork from the artists who have contributed to this publication. “Art is an essential tool to provide us perspective. These times show us more strongly than ever that the artists’ job is to make the art that only they can make, right now in the times that we are living.”