Arts & Culture and COVID-19

By Evelyn C. McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter
December 22, 2020

Our fall classes ended before Thanksgiving and the board of Amelia Lifelong Learning breathed a sigh of relief.  We started the planning for fall 2020 with the idea of just maintaining a presence in our community, even if we lost a little money.  Planning was difficult because none of us knew where COVID-19 would take our community or whether people would even be interested in classes.  Right up to the last minute, some scheduled classes had to be cancelled because neither the instructors nor prospective students felt good about gathering in person.

Though challenging, this fall was a learning experience for us.  It was the first time we offered online courses using Zoom.  We did a survey of former students to see whether they would be willing to come to an in-person class or take a class via Zoom.  At first, more people said in-person but as time went on, the number willing to consider Zoom went up.  We suspected more people were learning to communicate with their families and friends on Zoom sessions.

We started out the fall sessions in mid-October with one in-person class, two zoom classes, and one lecture.  Ron Kurtz presented an in-person class on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town at the Amelia Community Theatre (ACT).  ACT was actively working to assure that the theatre would be safe for socially distanced, masked live performances.

The Zoom classes were on current events and history.  Mark Ericson led a class on how the cultures of China, Korea and Japan informed the way in which they managed their COVID-19 response.  Steven Ericson gave perspectives on Japan in the runup to World War II, the war itself, and the aftermath.

The last class was a lecture on early folk medicine by Marge Powell on early folk medicine in our area.  It was presented at Story & Song, with masks and social distancing.  At the end of the fall session, we had both students and an instructor who were new to our programs.  We counted that as a success.

Credit for this success belongs to the ALL board and our planning team.  It belongs to our instructors, who were ready with ideas and experience.  Credit also belongs to ACT and Story & Song, who maintain safe spaces and are always willing to help with presentations.  Last and certainly not least, it belongs to the Fernandina Newsleader and the Fernandina Observer.  Both organizations were innovative and responsive to our press releases.  As s small organization, this kind of assistance is invaluable.

We’ll be back in the spring with in-person classes if the situation warrants and with Zoom classes.  Look for us at and thank you to all of our supporters.