April 15, 2020

Finding Our (New) Way: Youth on Record in the Time of Coronavirus

Team YOR during an animal-themed Zoom call
Team YOR during an animal-themed Zoom call


The day before Youth on Record decided to halt in-person activities at our Youth Media Studio and in our school programs, our team was looking really fancy. Not fancy like they’ve been for the past few weeks – showing up to team zoom meetings in animal prints and funny hats and lounge-wear (ok – pajamas) – but fancy enough to receive an award from the Colorado Business Association for the Arts.

Our team of artists, administrators, and board members crowded into Sewell Ballroom with 700+ members of Colorado’s arts community for the annual luncheon. We shook hands and tapped elbows and made passing comments about coronavirus, or “The Roni V,” our team’s kitschy nickname for the then novel but soon to be ominous pandemic.

As I walked around, greeting and thanking friends and colleagues, I had a feeling, deep in my gut, that everything was about to change. But instead of allowing my mind to spiral out of control, I soaked in the moment of watching my friends and colleagues shine brightly, make silly jokes, and nibble on their plated quinoa and chicken lunch. At our table, we passed dessert and the occasional note and side-eyed glance. And, for a moment, we were ok. Better than ok. In fact, our vision for Youth on Record was accelerating, and being recognized, and our team was closer and more aligned than ever.

Flash forward to earlier this week. Our team of community artists and all-around resilient bad-asses was tired and frustrated. They were doing their best to engage with each other at our Monday morning Zoom call, but the subtext was clear. My friends were feeling defeated. And this feeling was hitting them hard, despite the fact that Youth on Record has continued all of our current services since March 15; despite that fact alt ALL Youth on Record staff members, teaching artists, and contracted artists are being paid fully (with no signs of layoffs of furloughs in the future); despite the fact that we’ve taken a trauma-informed management approach and self-care to the next level. Still, in the middle of our organization’s continued health, we’re feeling the pain of our current reality.

My hope is that by sharing our highs and lows, our strategy and set-backs, our programmatic approach, our management and inner-life development activities, and our new artistic and story-telling platforms, we might shed some light on the current circumstance for folks who don’t know what’s going on or how to help. I’m also hopeful that Youth on Record’s story might offer some comradery and support for fellow artists, nonprofits, and partners who need friendship and community now more than ever.

Over the next few months, we’ll offer our perspective on the impact that coronavirus is having on the arts, our youth, education, and music, and what we envision for best next steps in recovery. We hope you, too, will share your experiences with us.

I know we’ve all heard it. “We’re in this together.” But, we are.

We really are.

Youth on Record