Creative Connections: Artists find inspiration, face challenges during COVID-19 |

Creative Connections: Artists find inspiration, face challenges during COVID-19

Sarah Valentino
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat Springs Middle School teacher Garret Bock, shown modeling a robot costume he created for Halloween, has used his time of self isolation to construct a neon pink and purple rabbit robot costume.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — This great pause has opened up a world of creative possibilities for many people who are hunkering down in their homes. From baking bread to experimenting with hairstyles, creativity is a natural response to the need for purpose and power in life. At the same time, the monotonous daily routine has put a damper on inspiration for many people and the businesses they rely on for income.

Eight Routt County residents reflected on their creative experiences over the last few weeks. Some have found themselves embarking on new projects and finishing up old ones. Others have found themselves less inclined.

Garret Bock, a Steamboat Springs Middle School teacher, has used his time to construct another cardboard robot costume. You might remember his black-and-red getup stomping down Lincoln Avenue last Halloween. Bock’s new creation is a neon pink-and-purple rabbit.

“I felt the Rabbit Ears was more of a Steamboat symbol than a giant evil robot,” Bock said. “I look forward to walking around in it when this whole thing is over.”

Megan Westerkamp finds herself in a similar situation. Westerkamp, a fine arts teacher at Steamboat Springs High School who also is working from home, said she has become creative with her curriculum. She said the school shutdown has forced her to think of projects her students could do with just their smartphones.

Beyond her school work, Westerkamp also has found time to finish several multi-media projects and help out with community mask sewing.

Courtesy photo

Janet Bradley has decided to channel her creativity into a project she enjoyed nearly 30 years ago: gardening.

“I got into using rock, water, vegetables and flowers as my palette, integrating unconventional combinations,” Bradley said.

Her studio is currently full of seedlings.

Others have found their less-structured time and social distancing to be a barrier to motivation.

Dagny McKinley, who serves as Steamboat Creates’ development director, finds herself “utterly stunted” during this time. McKinley said she is trying to get back into writing but feels stuck.

“If someone gave me a deadline and a consequence, I could probably be very productive,” McKinley shared. 

Norma Ruth Ryan, currently furloughed from her job at Steamboat Springs City Hall, has found it hard to find inspiration for her custom greeting card business and cartoons (@normaslovenotes).

“It’s been extremely hard for me to create … much of my art is borne of experiences with people,” Ryan said.

Megan Wykhuis, school social worker for South Routt School District, said it’s been harder to focus on creative goals since every day feels the same. Nevertheless, she said, “I’ve been able to crank out more creative content in one sitting than I have prior to pandemic.”

Wykhuis is a musician and creative writer, focusing her recent creative energy on fiction stories.

Maddie Greeson models some of her handcrafted jewelry.
Courtesy photo

Brie Kole and Maddie Greeson are used to balancing employment with running a creative business. This pandemic has hit their businesses especially hard with loss of sales opportunities.

Kole, typically working hard at Steamboat Specialties, said she has been kicked into high gear on most days. Like many local creative business owners, Kole has spent time building her website in hopes it could attract sales and commissions of her jewelry, T-shirts and art prints.

Greeson was working at a brewery while growing her jewelry business. Now unemployed, she feels fortunate to have some sales from her online store. She continues to create, though the cancellation of markets, shows and festivals will continue to affect her profits for months.

“Lately, I have to force myself to sit down with my supplies, stare at them for one to three hours and hope something comes to me,” Greeson said. “I do feel that when I make something it carries more weight and meaning.”

To balance creative output, creative consumption is at an all-time high.

Westerkamp is enjoying British TV and true crime podcasts. Bradley puts on TV and films to give her brain a break at the end of the day. McKinley has turned to Bob Ross. Wykhuis enjoys music and video essays to stay engaged. Greeson is reading history books as consolation in knowing that others have overcome hardship.

In these strange times, even artists writers and musicians turn to fellow creators for comfort, joy, amusement and distraction.

Depsite the popularity of at-home projects and mass media, local creative businesses will take a long time to recover.

According to a survey being conducted by McKinley through Steamboat Creates, individuals across the county are experiencing loss of income, loneliness and anxiety. Summer programming, now uncertain, is essential for many who rely on arts, crafts and cultural events for income; the economic and social impact on this community will last much longer than social distancing regulations.

For information on resources for artists, artisans and creative businesses, or to support them during this time, visit

Routt County is home to a diverse collection of creative people and practices. Inspired individuals thrive at our crossroads of the wild outdoors, rustic grit, and fun lifestyles. To share your creative story, contact Sarah Valentino at

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