Coronavirus and Public Health

April 3, 2020

The health and safety of Mineral School residents, volunteer staff, and the Mineral community are of great concern to us. For several weeks, we have followed coronavirus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control as well as Washington state’s COVID-19 resources and updates page in this rapidly changing situation.

In response to the developing COVID-19 situation, our steering committee in late March made the difficult decision to cancel all five of our 2020 summer residencies. We didn’t think we would need to take this step, but we kept coming back to one central question: Can we responsibly care for someone who falls ill on our watch? And also: Is it responsible to our neighbors in Mineral to bring in rotating (albeit very small) crowds from all over the country? While we thought we might be able to “wait and see” from one session to the next and offer some summer sessions, we felt a responsibility to make concrete plans for the sake of our community of volunteers, alumni, and culinary and cleaning workers who must clear schedules and travel to host residents. We also recognize that many artists planning to attend residency will face health, housing, studio, financial, and other impacts to their practice throughout 2020. With conditions changing from state to state and restrictions on travel and gatherings (such as our readings and art sharing events), we felt “wait and see” would become an exercise in cancellation. So, in the spirit of June Dodge, we went ahead and made a tough decision about the whole summer and have spent the past few weeks discussing it with funders, who kindly support us, as well as incoming artists.  

There is good news, however. We have accepted 21 fabulous members of the Class of 2020, and we are holding them back one year — you’ll hear more about these wonderful artists later in April. The Class of 2020 will enroll in Mineral in 2021. Additionally, our planned visiting presenters for 2020 are all invited to share work in 2021 — including Seattle artist Carina del Rosario (2018), Portland poetry/music duo “Thick in the Throat, Honey” (2018), Cathlamet, WA-based fiction writer Ruby Hansen Murray (2019), Seattle fiction writer Corinne Manning (2019) and poet Ever Jones, and Bellingham poet Dayna Kidd Patterson (2019). 

What will we do this summer, with no residents roaming our halls? That’s a good question. But the pause in programming holds some benefits — we will use this time to take stock of the big picture, forge new and broader connections to supporters and partners, and work on finding ways to make Mineral School more sustainable. If social distancing restrictions lift, we will hold volunteer weekends at the school and possibly other programming (overnight and not). Maybe we’ll publish the Mineral Daily MinutePivoting is in our DNA. We are no strangers to unexpected acts of nature and timing in Mineral: During residency, we have hosted a funeral, an all-locals community meeting, and a 130-member firefighting team that camped out back in between trips to battle a nearby blaze. We’ve put on dinner for 12 with the power out. We’ve taken precautions against a loose juvenile cougar, and conspired to free sparrows and hummingbirds from our halls. All of these incidents required resident and community cooperation and communication, and are an inextricable part of the fabric of life in a rural, small community. We see the current pandemic as a dire circumstance but also one where, with care and caution, we can nevertheless work with Mother Nature’s timing and, in 2021, continue to deliver on our mission to nurture artists and help them generate new work.