If hope is the thing with feathers, as Emily Dickinson said, then we’ve all been going through a major plucking in recent months. For me, working at and writing for the Reader (which I’ve done, off and on, since 1992, starting back when we were still occupying several floors at 11 E. Illinois) has always been a source of joy. So on Wednesday, March 11, when I left the current (much smaller) Reader offices, I was thinking, “Well, may not be back for a couple of weeks or so, depending on how this COVID-19 situation plays out.”

I haven’t been back since, except to pick up some things I needed. But while hope has been on the ropes as the death toll mounts (and the callousness of the administration grows right along with it), there have been some fledgling flashes of how we can get through our long national nightmare. And a lot of that has come courtesy of the artists.

It’s present in the work of multidisciplinary artist Del Marie, who was supposed to be featured by Jack Helbig in our spring arts preview issue, which fell victim to the shutdown. But she’s still creating, as are so many others.

The protests against white supremacy and police violence this summer also helped give wings to the We See You White American Theater (We See You W.A.T.) collective and the BIPOC Demands for White American Theater. Locally, several Black artists have taken the reins at Chicago theaters. Sheri Flanders talked to them to get a sense of what it’s like to be moving into these roles at this time in history, and with the many challenges the performing arts are facing.

Emma Oxnevad examines the dilemma of applying to art school in the pandemic, while Ariel Parrella-Aureli looks at how stand-up comics are adjusting to COVID.

Irene Hsiao writes about CounterBalance, a dance festival celebrating artists with and without disabilities this month. And Deanna Isaacs caught up with the founders of Silk Road Rising, who faced a health crisis together before COVID.

This week also marks the beginning of the Reader‘s 50th anniversary celebration. Through all the challenges of the past months, I couldn’t be more proud of my colleagues and of the beautiful defiance of the Chicago art scene, which keeps hope perching in our souls, week after week.