Coping With Quarantine: Arts educator Ryan Holmes

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Coping With Quarantine is a recurring feature that examines how people across Greater Lansing are being affected by the coronavirus. City Pulse aims to interview a diverse cast of residents as they adjust to a new lifestyle under the measures taken in Michigan to curb the pandemic. If you are interested in being featured, please contact ashleycitypulse@gmail.com

MONDAY, April 6 — Ryan Holmes, 36, of Lansing, is an artist and arts educator with Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy, where he instructs children from kindergarten to eighth grade. He’s known around town for his vibrant chalk art — intricate sketches and colorful portraits of comic book characters and other pop culture iconography from medieval dragons to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“We found out we were taking a month off, and that turned into the rest of the school year,” Holmes said.

Holmes, who is on paid leave from Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy, is also creating family-friendly how-to-draw classes on YouTube to engage children and other budding artists who are also in quarantine. He also participates in remote meetings with other school faculty to discuss online teaching strategies.

“I’m trying to keep art education going. I’ve been trying to be more personal and thoughtful with my creations,” Holmes said. “It’s a very different time for me. Now, I can create art without deadlines, so I’m using the isolation to get some artistic me-time.”

Being separated from his students and dealing with a wave of art show cancellations causes Holmes to feel growing anxiety as the weeks of self-isolation roll on.

“As an educator, you are the norm. You are a constant in a lot of those kids’ lives, and to not be there for them is really tough,” Holmes said. “There’s a sense of disappointment — especially when things you’re looking forward to are canceled. But my kids’ safety is the number one thing. We’re lucky that this is a time with many different options for communication, but it’s taken a while to emotionally reset and say, ‘Here we go, we’re going to try this a different way.’”

While Holmes calls his daily educational YouTube videos his “reason for getting out of bed,” he still finds time to head outdoors to produce more of his chalk art. He’s also diligently creating sketches and — when he needs to have some mindless fun — he’ll build structures out of LEGOs. Holmes also uses his additional free time to work on various projects for his “Ghostbusters” fan club.

“We have a lot of time, and for creative people, that can be dangerous,” Holmes laughed.

Holmes said social media has made it easy to get “flooded” with updates on the coronavirus.

“I try to verify my sources when I get my information. Sometimes you see things from weeks ago, or the days are switched up,” Holmes said. “I try to stay aware of things that are going on, but I am a fight instead of flight person. I have to be doing things; I’m following creators and seeing how they are helping out. I’m intrigued by how people have stepped up in different ways.”

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