Recording stand-up intro’s for Small Town Chicago’s first episode on North Lawndale. Shot by Ralph Braseth

With this blog, I plan to highlight artistic creators studying at Loyola University Chicago. As I write this in February of 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it tough for everyone to do what they like to do in the same way they did it before social distancing.

These students, whether photographers, videographers, graphic designers, etc., have managed to persevere past the challenges of their environment and continue practicing their craft while maintaining themselves healthy. I hope that by showcasing these students I can inspire others to find ways to create and pursue their passions despite the unfortunate circumstances they may face, even when there isn’t a global pandemic.

By getting to know these creatives, I can inspire myself as well as I also try to find new ways to tell stories and overcome challenges.

Since starting college, I’ve grown an interest in producing documentaries. This led to a group of Loyola students and I to start a student media group in October of 2019 called Small Town Chicago, where we produce mini-documentaries on the people, cultures, strengths, and weaknesses of the most unique yet overshadowed neighborhoods in Chicago.

In just over a year we’ve produced four mini-documentaries in three different neighborhoods from North Lawndale to Roseland, but the coronavirus restrictions challenged us as much as anyone else.

For the Fall semester of 2020, we set out to shed a light on the displacement of the Hispanic and artistic culture of Pilsen, due to the ever-rising expenses of gentrification. The story was so good it could tell itself, we just had to figure out how to shoot and edit a detailed documentary as a deadly disease rampaged through the world.

Capturing artists of the Mural Movement decorate the viaduct on 16th and Peoria St. Shot by Natalie Doyle

It made us rethink everything: how to collaborate remotely, how to meet safely, how to coordinate interviews safely. What equipment would be the safest to use? Everything now had a safety element to it.

I’m proud to say that by the end of the Fall semester we produced what I believe is our best work yet, but this virus put the game in a difficulty level we had never faced before. This experience gives me respect for all creators who have persevered past this pandemic, as well as other challenges, to continue doing what they love.

I hope our stories can motivate others to create as well.