San Jose artists, musicians recovering from COVID-19

Editor’s Note: This story is part of the annual Mosaic journalism workshop for Bay Area high school students a two-week intensive course in journalism. Students of the program report and photograph stories under the guidance of professional journalists.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of everyday life, including education, work and housing. Art and culture, created through performance and people, also suffered greatly in San Jose.

“Wolf Point” by Jesse Crimes, on display at the Institute of Contemporary Art in San Jose, California on Thursday, June 16, 2022. To create this blanket, Chrismes used various materials that were smuggled out of the prison. (Dacia Cobian for Mosaic Journalism)

Imran Najam-Najam, Community Programs and Communications Officer at the Institute of Contemporary Art in San Jose, and artist Creo Noveno-Najam opened a DIY gallery called 3F in Japantown in April 2019. The art space was community oriented, with the philosophy of creating space for local and emerging artists in the Bay Area. Then the pandemic hit.

“We could make art, but there was nobody on the streets at the time,” Najam-Noveno said.

Because the space was self-financed, five people had to raise money to keep the gallery open. It closed in March 2020.

“The opportunities that have disappeared as a result of the pandemic have made it harder for creatives to survive,” added Creo Noveno-Najam. They hope to one day reopen their space.

The Globo Cons, a group made up of San Jose high school students Will King, Jesse Zulk, and Aidan Shattuck, were also in trouble during this time. Describing their music as a “modern evolution of rock ‘n’ roll”, King said his writing suffered when the pandemic hit.

“I practically lost all ability to write words,” he said. “It seemed to me that there were so few events that I could write about.”

The band will release their second album “Billy and the Hummus Men” in July and will perform music from it on June 25 at the Art Boutiki in San Jose. But Zalk said it’s still dangerous to perform after the pandemic. Because of this new urge to return there, artists do not always think about the health and safety of all people.

“I think the collective spark of creativity among young people is inspiring, but a lot of empathy is lost along the way because of the urgency that is now apparent,” Zalk said.

Cherry Lakey, co-owner of the Anno Domini gallery in downtown San Jose, takes a different view. The gallery, based on street art and artist activism, reopened as soon as Santa Clara County allowed retailers to reopen during the pandemic.

“Because if art is not needed in times of crisis and loneliness, then when is it needed?” Lakey said. “Our foot traffic has definitely dropped a lot, but everyone who was here needed it and it was learning time.”

Art Exhibited At Anno Domini Gallery In San Jose, California On Thursday, June 16, 2022.  Anno Domini Is A Space Where Artists Can Exhibit And Sell Their Work.  (Dacia Cobian For Mosaic Journalism)
Art exhibited at the Anno Domini Gallery in San Jose, California on Thursday, June 16, 2022 (Dacia Cobian for Mosaic Journalism)

A DJ with over 20 years of experience, Rick Villa has seen a drastic change in his Bay Area business. The pandemic has led to the cancellation of major events such as weddings and prom parties, and DJs are often hired for these events. He said DJs had to change their marketing and are still struggling.

“Many have had to reinvent themselves using online platforms to distribute their music,” he said, “and I’ve seen DJs struggle and have a hard time.”

But he is hopeful that venues will continue to open and things can go back to how they were before.

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