Beacon in Quarantine

Nancy LeVine

Photographer Nancy LeVine moved to Beacon from Seattle in 2019. During the early weeks of the shutdown in April and May, she drove around her new city to take portraits of residents from a socially safe distance outside their homes.

“At the time, New York was overwhelmed with thousands of people being stricken and many succumbing to the virus,” she recalls. “Everything was unknown — exactly how the virus spreads, how contagious, what symptoms, treatment. There was lots of fear. I felt calmest when I was out creating these portraits.

“I loved meeting everyone and now I have a deeper feeling of community that often takes a long time to develop,” she says. “Their responsibility at the time to Beacon and New York was to stay home. I decided mine was to venture out in the safest way possible to take their portraits and find out what they were feeling.”

LeVine photographed 80 households from April 14 to May 15, when the statewide shutdown was lifted. A selection is published here for the first time, along with comments LeVine collected from her subjects.

Steve and Sascha Mallon

Steve and Sascha Mallon

Steve: I fell even more in love with my wife. I’m thankful for the home we have together and how we were all able to appreciate each other and also give each other space. We are still laughing late at night together!

Sascha: I am used to being home a lot. In the beginning I used the time to make colorful childrens’ masks for underserved communities through Cope NYC, and I work remotely doing Zoom calls for art projects with oncology patients for The Creative Center NYC. Unfortunately, I am not sure if I can keep my job. I am so very thankful for my husband, my daughter, our dog and beautiful house.

Cabot and Melanie Parsons

Cabot and Melanie Parsons

Cabot: I’m lucky to still be teaching, remotely, acting for teens at a dance studio in Middletown. Three hours of Zoom meetings is exhausting and not fulfilling, but the kids are still engaged and that is what matters. All my spring performances of my short puppet piece in Boston and Baltimore are canceled. I rededicated my theater work to puppetry a few years ago while recuperating from several leg surgeries after our house burned. 2020 was going to be my year to become known in my field. My sleep cycle is wildly disrupted, and I am worried about our family members in Texas. I’m furious at our friends in Texas who aren’t taking this seriously, knowing that they or people like them might bring the virus in contact with my 84-year-old diabetic dad. I’m angry a lot. I want to perform again but that won’t be happening soon. All my performer friends, from Broadway folk to puppeteers to fire acts, have had their whole lives wiped out for the foreseeable future. But sure, let’s hurry and make certain people can get her hair done.

Melanie: I feel a sadness that doesn’t seem to go away. Having lived in New York during 9/11 and the blackout, I remember seeing the very best of people and at moments the very worst. During this quarantine, I’ve been so disappointed in people and their responses and actions, mostly in regard to others. Before all of this, I would have said I was very optimistic and did try to see the best of any situation. I hope more than anything that I will be able to feel that way again. I am very lucky to be in this crazy time with my husband and dog; they have kept me sane and laughing as much as possible.

Greg Anderson and Sara Milonovich

Greg Anderson and Sara Milonovich

Sara: On March 10, I played on Broadway, subbing the violin chair in Come From Away. On March 12, Broadway went dark. By that weekend every live performance I had scheduled through the spring had canceled. Summer festival cancellations began trickling in over the following weeks, each one stinging like rubbing alcohol hitting the cracks in our hands.

We knew it was coming, but turns out knowing something intellectually and processing it emotionally are different. Our industry is frozen. We know it will come back, we just don’t know when or how. We’ve been lucky so far to have remained healthy in spite of almost certain exposure. Some of our friends and colleagues have not fared so well. Every day feels like some exercise in grieving, whether a human life or a human experience, which is what live music is.

Months later and arts workers are feeling forgotten by our elected officials and a portion of the general population, as well. I’m lonely. I’m sad. I’m homesick for the stage, the studio, the road. I miss my bandmates. I miss even the late nights and early mornings, when putting in contact lenses in the wee hours feels more like jamming a couple of Triscuits into my eyes. I miss the random moments of weirdness and beauty.

Lisa Montanaro and Andrew Coppick

Lisa Montanaro and Andrew Coppnick

Lisa: I love becoming used to working from home; my biggest fear is the internet cutting out. I’m grateful we’re not parents yet; some parents out there are living a real nightmare. None of our friends and family are sick. We’re putting in an application to foster dogs but haven’t heard back. I would love the added company since I am alone all day. We go fishing when Andrew comes home from work. It’s striped-bass season and they are delicious. I hope this is over soon as I am disappointed by how quickly our thriving local economy fell apart. I’m now seeing empty store fronts on Main Street and I haven’t seen that in a decade. I also don’t believe in too many government handouts. So it’s a bit of a Catch 22.

Amy Pilkington

Amy Pilkington

Ordered to stay at home. At first, sleeping in seems like a luxury. Watching Netflix all day in my PJs seems like a great idea. Ordering pizza sounds delicious. I stay up late. Cocktails start early. I call my mom and dad every day to check on them. Everyone is saying there will be a rush on food and we will run out so I try to fill my house with non-perishables and root vegetables. And some chocolate Cadbury eggs left over from Easter. One big bag of white chocolate and one dark.
I put the chocolate up high in a cupboard and try to not eat them all. This is futile. I pull over a chair and grab a little handful at a time. They go in four days — way too fast.

I feel lazy. I had two jobs I was working on. They were both put on hold due to my clients’ financial uncertainty and a general feeling of not knowing if they should be doing something nice for themselves with all the death and pain around. Every day seems like a frantic search for information. Who do I spend time with? Can I see my neighbor? Yes, we will be corona buddies. We walk dogs together and shop for groceries together. We take turns cooking and enjoy cocktails and movies together.

I’m talking to my friends from out of town a lot more. The phone is always ringing and sounding a text. We are all sharing videos and photos of people in quarantine doing funny things. We’re all starting to feel fat. I suggest not wearing elastic-waisted pants. My mother admits to eating three Oreos for breakfast. She has been a health nut her whole life.

People in my apartment complex are gardening like crazy, desperate to be outside and make something beautiful. Safe distancing get-togethers outside in the garden area are common. No one shares drinks or bottles. Sit 6 feet apart. Wear masks. Then the masks come off as it is hard to drink through them.

One night we light a fire and it is magical to sit around the pit and watch the flames and feel the warmth. The building management team has disappeared. They left the premises to the virus and have not been wiping the doors or communal areas. This seems to be a major source of my complaining. I’m becoming grumpy. This could be a bad diet or frustration or loneliness. It’s time I start trying to be creative and get myself inspired. Go to the studio. Turn off Netflix. Clean my kitchen. File for unemployment. Apply to grants. Speak to my mom and dad. They say they will help if I really need it but to exhaust every other option first.

I feel like a loser. I feel very flat. Nothing seems exciting or worthwhile. Thank goodness for my dog. She is an excellent cuddler.

Sharlene Stout

Sharlene Elmore Stout

The music director of Spirit of Unity said she was disappointed not to see her family or watch her grandchildren play sports, but continued to attend Bible studies and Sunday School over the phone.

Robert Merino and Betsy Rivera with Robert Merino, 12, and Jennifer Velasquez, 15

Robert Merino and Betsy Rivera

Robert: I am Peruvian. I have worked at the Cardinal Health warehouse in Montgomery for 11 years. We supply medical materials for hospitals. Since March I have been working day and night. I disinfect myself before I get home. I know that soon the day will come where I will be home for a longer time so I can also hug my family without fearing I will contaminate them. [Translated from Spanish]

Betsy: I am from Puerto Rico and have lived in Beacon for 25 years. I’m a teacher and work with special children with autism and Down syndrome. They do not understand why we can’t meet for class and why we have to be at home. I miss them so much. At home I help my children with their schoolwork and we prepare meals and desserts together and we make masks for the children to protect themselves. And we draw positive pictures and put them on the windows for our neighbors. We have faith that everything will pass and we will be free. [Translated from Spanish]

Robert: It all started in school like a normal day. It was a Friday. So I was ready for the weekend. Once Monday arrived, school was canceled. I didn’t have a big reaction. I kind of predicted schools were going to close. Overall, quarantine isn’t that bad. As long as you stay home, wash your hands and stay active, you should be fine.

Jennifer: I study and review alone to teach myself the lessons and prepare for tests. I’ve been home since March 14. It is very sad and scary to watch the news to hear that many people are dying and not having hope since there is no medicine or cure. It seems so unreal to see everything closed. ¾

Steve Blamires and Jennifer Mackiewicz

Steve Blamires and Jennifer Mackiewicz

Jennifer: I moved to Beacon 19 years ago from Nevada. I was working for the artist Michael Helzer and, after 11 years, it was time to get out of the desert. I became the senior administrator at Dia:Beacon. When I arrived, Main Street was boarded up and Beacon was not a destination. I got involved with the community, served on boards for a community center gallery (now closed) and for BACA (now called Beacon Arts). And met so many wonderful people! But it wasn’t until the towers fell that I felt like a New Yorker.

Steve, whose main income is as an historian on expedition cruise ships, lost all his contracts for the coming year. I have been underemployed or unemployed since 2008, so at the best of times, it’s been a struggle. Just two days ago, Steve’s unemployment came through, as did a pension from Scotland he didn’t even know he had. So we are OK for now. ¾

Barbara Brickhouse, with her son, Turone; Tatyana, 14; Haeven, 17 months; and dog, Winston

Barbara Walker and family

Barbara: I cannot see and spend time with my children. And I miss going to church to worship with my church family.

Melissa Haydt with Lucas, 5, and Maggie

Melissa Haydt and Lucas

Melissa: I’m a registered nurse and have been working in one of the hardest-hit areas. I pray every day going to work that I will not bring this virus home to my family. I have trouble sleeping at night when I have to go to work. I feel that we are all realizing what we have always known: Family is the most important thing we have, and as long as we are all healthy and together, everything will be alright.

Patrick and Marian Fredericks

Patrick and Marian Fredericks

Patrick: We take drives to Fishkill and Cold Spring. We have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. We have good neighbors. Nothing bothers me. My wife moved to Beacon when we were married, 60 years ago. I grew up here. The mountains protect us.

Eric Diehl and Sarah Capua, with Santino

Sarah Capua and Eric Diehl

Eric: I will always be grateful that I got to see our child learn to crawl, walk and begin to babble. Some days have been joyful, while others filled with anxiety and fear. I have been able to plan alternative means of making a living at my home studio. I know that I have friends and family out there to lend a hand, and it’s comforting to know that millions of others are in the same boat or worse than us.

Sarah: My son teaches me how to focus on the moment at hand. Every morning we light a candle and remember we are connected to it all.

Carolyn and Leman Anderson

Carolyn and Leman Anderson

Carolyn: It’s hard keeping your distance, and not having the privilege of eating out with friends. But we learned to adjust. It brought household members together; parents and their children began to bond.

Allyn Peterson and Jennifer Meister with Naomi, 4, and Riley, 8

Allyn Peterson and Jennifer Meister

Jennifer: I miss family terribly. I used to see family in New York City about every other weekend, but now it’s been about two months. One thing I’ve enjoyed is cooking more, gardening and riding bikes as a family. The thing I like least is not knowing when it will end.

Riley: I like homeschooling because whenever you want, you can take a break and rest.

Allyn: I’m a private person, so I think the isolation affects me less than others, generally. There is a sense of normalcy I certainly miss, but I also hope our remote connectivity keeps evolving. Not long ago, our ancestors “shut down” life during the winter because the cold proved too great a risk. We’re learning a lot about essential services and adapting productivity.

Kolt Reagle

Kolt Reagle

I spent a good amount of time feeling scared like everyone else. I would start painting and almost instantly stop before I picked up a brush and question why I was working. Who am I painting for if the world was shut down? It was so much easier to feel negative and wallow in the uncertainty. But I would wake up every day and get excited about the stuff we were going to work on that didn’t mean anything. It didn’t matter if it was good or bad or just a silly idea.

Gail Wauford and Dimitri Archip

Gail Wauford and Dimitri Archip

Gail: It’s a challenge to fight the depression that comes from being out of work and isolated. When this is over, I’m going to give everyone I know the longest, most heartfelt hug.

Dimitri: As stressful as the lockdown was, I feel fortunate to be living in Beacon, where the population is not as dense as it is in Brooklyn, where we used to live.   Of all the people I’ve known in my life, I am lucky to have been quarantined with Gail. She has been my North Star.

2 thoughts on “Beacon in Quarantine

  1. Nancy LeVine, thank you for this beautiful project. And, thank you to The Current for publishing this. It’s great journalism. During this long quarantine, we’ve all been stuck in our respective bubbles. We can only imagine how others are getting along. These touching sketches have really humanized the impact of the virus for me. I wish I could give everyone a giant, big hug.