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“If we unite as a community, we can overcome anything”

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By ALEX MALM

Art has long been an important part of Susan Brescia’s life, both personally and professionally.

Self-taught musician since her youth, she plays guitar, ukulele, piano, mandolin and djembe. In college, she studied commercial art and music. Over the years, she has performed on stage in musicals and cabarets.

For 25 years, she held the position of Creative Director. Then, in March 2020, she was one of many people across the state and country who lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic.

“I had no idea they weren’t planning on hiring me again,” she said.

Brescia was only four years away from retiring from the company, which made it even more devastating for her. Since becoming unemployed, she has been trying to find work in her field.

After a while she started to draw. And then, one day, she thought to herself, why not just publish a book to commemorate the events that happened during the pandemic and introduce several Rhode Islanders?

That’s exactly what she did when she released a 100-page hardcover book this summer called “The Year the World Stopped”.

Brescia wanted to highlight the stories of different Rhode Islanders during the pandemic through words and illustrations.

Brescia explained that she learned stories from people she knew and picked up others on Facebook. From there, she contacted people to see if they were interested in being included in her book.

“I really want this book to be an inspiration, and the message is that through the most difficult times, including a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, if we come together as a community, we can overcome anything. “she said.

One of the people pictured in the book is Rhode Island State Police Captain Kenneth Jones, who was one of those who helped distribute food to people in need during the pandemic.

“For months now, in towns and villages that stretch across America, cars have lined up for miles, as far as the eye can see, waiting their turn to pick up a tin of canned food, produce, bread. , pasta and cereals. Similar to the bread lines in the 1930s, the lines were endless, ”Brescia writes.

“Due to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, millions of people have always been left out of work. Community food banks across the country continued to be under pressure and were unable to meet demand. People who had never depended on aid before, or who were themselves food bank donors before the pandemic, have now found themselves on the side of the recipients. “

While she wanted to have stories about the Rhode Islanders in the book, she thinks they represented what was happening across the country.

“These are everyone’s faces. Even though there are a lot of Rhode Islanders in there, they really represent our faces, ”Brescia said.

Former governor Gina Raimondo is portrayed in the book, but she represents what all governors faced during the pandemic, Brescia says. In the drawing, Raimondo – now Secretary of the US Department of Commerce – has an expression that expresses both the calm she sought to project during the crisis and the magnitude of the circumstances facing Rhode Island.

Other illustrations capture the human toll of the pandemic and the pain felt by those who have lost a loved one but were unable to say goodbye properly. In one, “Prayers for Healing,” an emotional woman tilts her head and joins her hands as she prays. In another, “Whispers of Comfort,” a nurse comforts a patient on a ventilator. One cartoon, “Holding Each Other Up,” shows a doctor, respiratory therapist, and nurse in an emotional embrace after a long, exhausting shift.

“For those who lost their lives, many took their last breath on their own. They said goodbye to their families, with only a nurse by their side, over the phone or digital device… which compounded the level of unbearable grief, ”the book reads.

In addition to telling stories of what people faced during the pandemic, Bresica includes COVID-19 statistics for each month in Rhode Island, around the country, and around the world. Once they became available, she also started including vaccine data.

While the loss of her job during the height of the pandemic led Bresica to write the book, it wasn’t the only time she turned to art during a dark period in her life as a means of healing. .

In her late twenties, she was diagnosed with a rare smooth muscle cancer called leiomyosarcoma. She decided to write songs to help her get through the tough times in her life.

“It’s a way for me to express myself,” she said.

Brescia explained that she thinks it is important to be able to use art in all its forms as a means of healing. Eventually, she hopes to do a lecture series on using creativity to overcome adversity or cope with trauma.

“It’s an outlet, it’s an expression, it’s something that I think is really important,” she said.

Bresica said people don’t have to be professional artists to use art as a means of healing.

“It is the process itself that heals. It’s not the end result, it’s always the process, ”she said.

Brescia began writing the book in May 2020. It was released to printers last July. Throughout the process, she did everything from writing the stories to drawing the illustrations, finding a printing house and setting up some of her savings to help fund it.

She plans to have an official launch and book signing on October 9 at the Association of Rhode Island Authors Meet and Greet, which will take place at the Scituate Art Festival. It will be located in the parking lot behind the North Scituate Library.

In conclusion, Brescia writes: “Although COVID-19 has not been defeated, vaccination efforts continue to bring us closer to normal. The restrictions on wearing a mask and social distancing are gradually being lifted. I suspect the world will have to learn to live with COVID-19 and its variants and certainly, maybe not in my lifetime, it won’t be the last global pandemic. And so, I hope this book serves as a reminder of who we are, the moral obligation we share with each other, the courage of the human spirit, and the sense of hope that will always shine in them. darkest moments. I encourage you to draw, draw from within, and express yourself through all creative methods that give you a sense of freedom and joy. Thank you for letting me into your lives. “

Copies of the book, priced at $ 34.99, are available from Beacon Communications offices, 1944 Warwick Ave., Warwick and from Twice Told Tales in Pawtuxet.

Additional information is available at suebrescia.com