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Estacada artists, wordsmiths share experiences with social distancing amid public health concerns

COURTESY PHOTO: STEVAN ALLRED - Estacada-based novelist Stevan Allred is hosting an online writing group to help facilitate social distancing amid the current health crisis.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has upended many elements of life, for Spiral Gallery artist Karl Haugen, several things have stayed the same.

During this time of social distancing, Haugen continues to create between two and three watercolor paintings each week.

"The pace has stayed like this for a few years. It's not hard to stay busy while you're retired," he said, noting that he's also been creating wooden frames for his paintings.

Estacada-based writer Stevan Allred also said that he's working at a similar pace during this time of change.

"Working from home is kind of what writers do. So in terms of the physicality of what I do, there's nothing different," he said.

Like many in this period of social distancing, Haugen and Allred are using technology to connect with their fellow artists and writers, as well as share their work.

Haugen noted that he's been dabbling in uploading his paintings on Etsy. The Spiral Gallery has a shared account, and other artists have individual accounts.

"I haven't done it a lot, but I'm trying it out," he said, adding that he misses the camaraderie of the gallery at 341 S. Broadway St.

Meanwhile, Allred is using Zoom to conduct online meetings of The Pinewood Table, the Portland-based writing group he co-directs with Joanna Rose, who is also his co-host for the annual Estacada Writers Night.

"It's a big change for us," said Allred. "But it seems to be working, and it keeps our little writing community together. It helps us feel some sense of normalcy, and people are able to continue on their creative work."

Though there are no shortage of differences between meeting online versus in-person, some elements are similar.

"Our faces are a lot fuzzier. . .but the discussions really seem to be pretty much the same," Allred said.

He added that there are many benefits of using technology during a quarantine.

"People feel the connection through the internet, and that's a really great thing," he said. "One thing I've been thinking about is all of this happening, say, 20 years ago, when the internet was really just getting started. Imagine this kind of pandemic happening before social media and how much more isolating that would be."

Ideas brewing

Allred, who is currently writing a short story inspired by baseball, fairy tales and wizards, thinks it's likely that elements inspired by the global health crisis will make their way into his future works. COURTESY PHOTO: KARL HAUGEN - Karl Haugen, a painter in Estacada, has continued to work at a steady pace during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"A moment like this turns everybody into a close observer. Sometimes people withdraw, but if you're a creative person you're drawing upon the world in some way or another for inspiration," he said. "In terms of watching human behavior, it's pretty amazing what's going on, how we've responded to this crisis and what the effect of social distancing is, which is, I think, more profound maybe than we realize."

Often inspired by mythology, Allred finds many parallels between those stories and the current health crisis.

"There's certainly a lot of mythology around the end of the world. With the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the first horse is often listed as pestilence. And here we are dealing with pestilence," he said. "The rider on the horse, how that's going to turn up in my own work, that's a real subterranean process that doesn't happen particularly fast, but I know this stuff is coming into me and it'll probably find an exit at the other side of my brain at some point."

Allred added that another theme he's been thinking about is transformation in light of recent events.

"I would say the transformation is one of the core myths of human beings. And it's just the idea that things change and sometimes they change very dramatically," he said, noting that he's had many conversations about the changes that the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic might bring to the world. "I don't know how not to write about transformation. Any story that people want to hear has conflict in it, and conflict is usually about some kind of transformation."

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