Independent Staff Report
WEST HOLLYWOOD — Traditionally, the city celebrates the holiday season each year with a special holiday card featuring the contributions of a local artist.
For 2020, mindful of adapting and responding to COVID-19 health and safety precautions for stay-at-home orders and social distancing, the city has produced a two-and-a-half-minute video called “After the Music” that community members can access digitally.
“This year has been exceptionally challenging,” Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath said. “The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact all of us and many people in our community are struggling with isolation during the holiday season.
“Art and poetry have the power to inspire us and bring us together, even in virtual spaces. This year’s city poet laureate holiday season poem and animated video creatively remind us to ‘praise the Zoom call’ and celebrate the things that connect us. Let’s heed its message to support one another, boom laughter, gather in virtual spaces, and stay connected. Happy Holidays, West Hollywood!”
The “After the Music” video animates a poem written especially for the holiday season by City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace. It combines Sonia-Wallace’s poem, read aloud by the poet himself, with holiday card artwork designed by West Hollywood artist Steven Rahbany and animated imagery from Zoo Crew Productions.
The video was produced by the city’s Arts Division in collaboration with Zoo Crew Productions and is available for viewing on the city’s WeHoArts YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/IVwN5HflB3c.
Sonia-Wallace created the poem to address the feelings of hope, connecting and coping with isolation and change during this holiday season. The poem explores the ways in which we have adapted to the need for social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of our community and loved ones.
It explores the ways in which we find joy in appreciating what we have and connection over video calls and socially distant interactions.
Sonia-Wallace has been writing poems for strangers and neighbors on the streets of West Hollywood since the 2014 iteration of the City’s WeHo Reads literary series. A social practice poet straddling the lines between literature and community engagement, his 2020 debut from Harper Collins, “The Poetry of Strangers: What I Learned Traveling America With a Typewriter,” was lauded as “full of optimism and wide-eyed wonder” by the New York Times.
Steven Rahbany is an artist who lives and works in West Hollywood. His work explores queer identity and social issues through photography, textures and illustration. His work has been exhibited in group and solo shows around the country, at venues such as the Houston Contemporary Art Museum, the Los Angeles Center for Photography, Agora Art Gallery in New York and the California African-American Museum.