Finding hope in a time of pandemic: How Hampton Roads artists are handling quarantine

With nearly a month of social distancing under our belts, it’s almost certain that most of us are in need of a little pick-me-up.

In times of uncertainty and discomfort, we often turn to the arts for distraction and relief. Like most things these days, the pandemic has made doing so a bit more difficult.

In this temporary world where concerts, movie screenings and art shows are banned for the foreseeable future, the artists who not long ago sat center stage are often still creating, practicing and sharing their efforts with the world.

We’ve asked local artists — from symphony musicians, rock singers and mural artists — to share their insights with us and tell us about what keeps their creative juices flowing and feeling hopeful.

Tom Reel
Bass player with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra

How artists are using their senses stay inspired in a time of isolation

Sight: The azaleas in the back yard are in full bloom.

Smell: It’s a good season for opening the windows — fresh air!

Hearing: With the windows open and the bird-feeders stocked, nature provides some music during the day, and at night I like to listen to old favorites (classical and Broadway, mostly) and also discover something new on occasion.

Taste: I am so not a chef! Fish sticks, pesto, lentils, lots of rice and pasta. Boring!

Touch: Actually practicing (double bass) a bit more even with no concerts on the near horizon. An old friend and good company.

What are you finding joy in during this time?

I’m watching classic historic baseball games on television. And if there sometimes appears to be a vacuum of leadership or goodwill where we might expect to find it, it is made up in the generosity and love and creativity to be found in everyday people. I’m especially hopeful for our future when I come across talented kids. They are more than the light at the end of the tunnel. They are the light in the tunnel!


Tanner Antonetti
Trombone player with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra

How artists are using their senses stay inspired in a time of isolation

Sight: I have a dog, so I usually walk around Ghent. Lately, it’s been surprisingly beautiful to walk around Colley Avenue at night. It’s unusually quiet, but still lit up as if everything is open.

Smell and taste: Before this, I was a pretty big wine nerd but now I definitely have the time to learn even more. As I have more time to have a more meaningful dinner ritual at home, I’m taking the time to allow myself to really taste and smell a nice glass of wine, patiently and without expectation.

Hearing: As predictable as it seems, I’ve been recalibrating my ear to the best recordings of trombone that I can find. I was worried going in to this unexpected time-off that I would have a lull in my motivation, but quite the opposite has happened. I feel like the more I listen to the classical music that I love and the musicians I admire, the more I want to take advantage of the time I have to delve further into my own development.

Touch: The first thing that comes to mind is my dog. His name’s Charlie, and I think he’s pretty happy to have more of mine and my fiancee’s attention. He sheds like you wouldn’t believe, but his hair is really soft and he’s a pretty handsome pup.

What are you finding joy in during this time?

The Confucius quote about everything having beauty but not everyone seeing it has been a pervasive thought lately. The ability to slow down in just about every aspect of my daily life has given me the opportunity to seek out the beauty in the everyday. The first coffee in the morning, cooking dinner at home, walking around my neighborhood. All without the seeming urgency of a clock ticking. I suppose my schedule for these things isn’t all that different from my life before this time, and I’m certainly not sleeping in all day and then just walking around for hours. But the lifted weight of having to be here or there at a certain time, having to rush in the mornings to walk the dog, make breakfast, “find” time for myself away from the job portion of my art. Because of that, I seem to be finding a silver lining as I let things slow down.


Anna Bishop
Violinist for the Virginia Symphony Orchestra

What songs are you listening to?

I’ve been listening to a Danish piano & bass duo called Bremer/McCoy. The last record I put on the turntable was Michael Franks’ “Objects of Desire.”

What books (or other reads) are helping you make it through the day?

Oh boy, I’m a big reader! I’ve recently finished: “The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay, “Future Home of the Living God” by Louise Erdrich and “Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Is there a film or series you’ve watched recently that left you hopeful?

“Feel Good” starring and co-created by Mae Martin on Netflix.

Who are you reaching out to and how are you communicating with them?

I’ve been having fun getting back into art by writing letters to friends and family. It’s nice having a slower pace of life so we can get back to other ways of communicating besides texting and emailing.

What can you do to help others who are also struggling right now?

Richmond has an especially large amount of small businesses so we’re trying to do things like picking up food from small restaurants, breweries, and coffee roasters. This pandemic has been especially hard on the food and beverage industry so we’re trying to do our part.

What are you finding joy in during this time?

I’m finding deep gratitude for spring showing up during this difficult time so that we can take walks with our greyhound, Louie, and admire all the flowers emerging in our neighborhood.

Amy Poulter, 757-446-2705,