Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
January 17, 2021

Reconnecting to my hometown during COVID-19

By MARVIS GUTIERREZ | December 6, 2020

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COURTESY OF MARVIS GUTIERREZ

Gutierrez offers some ideas for students hoping to safely re-engage with their hometowns.

I’m one of the many who returned back to their hometown for the holidays, and due to quarantine restrictions, decided to stay there for the rest of the semester. After staying in Baltimore for the past couple of months, I’ve felt like a stranger in Miami more than ever.  

For those who are feeling like me, here’s how I re-engaged with my community. Hopefully, you can take inspiration from my ideas on how to connect in the era of COVID-19. Miami has the benefit of being a metropolitan center, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be opportunities to connect to people in smaller towns. 

I want to preface this by saying this: Please quarantine. This might seem to run parallel to the purpose of the article, but if you don’t practice sufficient safety precautions, then you are actively harming the community around you. If accessible, make sure to test for COVID-19.

Also, don’t risk yourself and harm others by attending dense indoor events. Community hubs are already opting for virtual and outdoor means. 

Go ahead and search through Facebook and through your local city magazines and newspapers. Leisure sections like the one in our paper are quite literally here to give you inspiration on what to do and highlight interesting events happening during the week. It’s pretty much passed, but for ideas, here’s the Baltimore rendition for this weekend.

You should also probably sign up for quite a large amount of newsletters. I know seeing the steadily increasing “unread” number in your mailbox is one of the most dreadful feelings in the world, but this is for a good cause, I can assure you. 

I was inspired by an Arts article to search for virtual art galleries. There’s a big arts scene in Miami. While the nucleus can be considered Art Basel, the city has a rich culture and art could be found almost anywhere if you look for it. Lucky for me, I started to tackle this piece just in time for Miami Art Week, so there was a surplus of available online exhibits. 

Look through the viewing rooms if you’re interested, but I found that there was actually a massive number of booths online. Galleries had to drastically shift the way they present their art due to social distancing guidelines. Larger museums like the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Pérez Art Museum had the resources to host completely virtual views of their exhibit available at any time, while other installations scheduled Zoom tours throughout the week.

I always try to look if there are any virtual talks offered. Design Miami offered a series of talks for Art Week, and much of its coverage revolved around this new digital age. There is just something incredibly validating about hearing others talk in-depth about their experiences during the pandemic.

And for those still interested in further programming for the occasion, look forward to the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum’s annual Breakfast in the Park on Sunday. They’ll be featuring Jeffrey Gibson, an artist who meshes traditions in his Cherokee and Choctaw heritage with queer culture. Indigenous artists often get forgotten in the larger conversation about design, so I’m personally really excited.

Book fairs have also been adapting to virtual programming. I had just missed the Miami Book Fair, but archives of the events remain, as well as the full list of vendors and available books to purchase. Local coffee shops, as well, are always a source of stable event programming and guest speakers. 

Look for local creativity centers and hubs that offer workshops. For me, I’ve been following The Bass for more opportunities to just take a creative break and follow their activity guides. I’ve been keeping an eye out for their free teen art classes (I’m a child at heart). Once finals are over, I’ll snap and go on a full art binge — please feel free to keep me accountable to this promise, as it’s how I decided I’ll be coping once I see my grades this semester.

Some of the most effective ways to reconnect are often the easiest ones. Being able to take a walk by a nearby pier in the early morning has given me the opportunity to de-stress during an otherwise stressful preparation period for finals. I put on a Raveena playlist, excuse myself to the most abandoned corner I can find and allow myself to take deep breaths as I watch the sun rise. Miami’s skyline has gradually become much more familiar to me.

Keep in mind the safety precautions I outlined earlier. If you live in a more suburban area of your hometown, take walks through your neighborhood. If you have a nature trail or walking path you used to frequent as a kid, give yourself time to experience it all over again. Now is the time to revisit those old habits.

Allow yourself to be encompassed in nostalgia, and hopefully you will feel less alone in this pandemic and as connected to your community as you can be.

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