This illustration originally appeared as the back cover of Volume I, Issue III of StoryBoard Memphis Quarterly in July 2022.
At first glance, this illustration welcomes you with sweet faces, fun patterns, and bright colors. Upon a closer look, you will see that it touches on different things that took place during a tough time – the pandemic. With our heads and notifications so filled with not-so-great news daily, I wanted to focus on the good things that came from such a difficult time and add a little sparkle too. Of course, like many others, I had a difficult time finding the beauty in chaos. But I think it’s important to make sure we do look for the good in the bad. When the pandemic started, I was very impressed with how many community members, organizations, and everyday people came together to help. Whether it was financially, with socially distanced food drives or COVID testing sites, or with resources and rental assistance, or just letting others know where to seek help – I was glad to see that we could still find the good when so many needed it most.
Living in a city like Memphis, one that is spread out over miles and diverse communities, and having previously worked at community and nonprofit jobs, I know how difficult it can be to ensure that you are assisting every population and demographic. That’s why it was so beautiful to see and experience firsthand the community leaders, organizations, and individuals who came together to assist the most marginalized populations. From translating their websites from English to other languages, to helping find rideshares to health sites, to ensuring people had food and bills paid, it was exciting and fueling for me to see that we could work together and assist during a time when things were unsure for so many people.
The same goes for creatives like myself who are self-employed and had to figure out how or where to go for our next paycheck and how to put food on the table. Community support is vitally important for so many of us. To see that people are willing to come together to make sure everyone is taken care of, gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘community.’ As a freelance artist, this also taught me, and other creatives, that we need to pivot and learn to adapt. Personally, that meant utilizing my online presence and the tools that I had at my disposal like Zoom and social media. This allowed the opportunity to fund our creativity and careers through things like online classes, selling our items, meeting others, and crowdfunding from supporters.
I hope that when people see this illustration, they not only see the beauty that comes from a community coming together but also the beauty that comes in times of despair. When life gets tough, I hope that you can remember there is always light on the other side.
Funding for this project made possible by the Tennessee Arts Commission’s COVID-19 Arts Resilience Grants.
Jeremie Serrano is a self-taught artist and vegan chef currently living in Memphis, TN, originally born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and raised in New England. His main goal is to share content that highlights the communities he is a part of, like being Latinx and queer, and he uses his upbringing and culture as inspiration for his creations. You can find Jeremie creating illustrations that many can relate to with quirky characters and often referencing Puerto Rican culture or making delicious recipes for the everyday cook.You can learn more and connect with Jeremie on his Website, Instagram platform, and YouTube channel.