ArtsUNITE’s Essential Worker of the Month is a monthly feature that recognizes essential staff who keep cultural hubs safe while they are closed during these uncertain times. These individuals are working diligently behind the scenes navigating the ever-changing landscape of the pandemic, all while staying safe and balancing time for their personal life. This month we are speaking with Alison Creba, Building Operator at Artscape Wychwood Barns.

What do you like most about your role?

I like the act of noticing – listening to the building itself as it ages and moves through the various seasons.  Buildings live on different timescales to humans, and I like observing the way these patterns evolve and influence one another.

What is it like being a Building Operator during this time?

It has been a wild time and the role has evolved alongside broader social sentiments.  The early days of lockdown felt creative and intimate.  Instead of ramping up into spring, March was quiet.  I was energized to make improvements to overlooked aspects: painting tired walls and attending to squeaky stairs.  But as COVID wore-on and was compounded with broader social unrest, new light was shed on immediate and long-term priorities.  Like so many other aspects of life, this time has been challenging and humbling. Importantly, it has offered an opportunity to connect with community in new ways and to evaluate both the physical but social health of the building and the lives it contains.

What should tenants do to help keep you safe?

Tenants play an important role in keeping the building safe. Through their lived experiences, attention to detail and communication are a great help.  Educating themselves and keeping up to date on news from Artscape and the City at large are also important. This, alongside patience, kindness and willingness to learn go a long way in keeping the space positive and safe for current and future tenant use.

Are there any special protocols in place to keep AWB Tenants and the Community safe?

Safety means making sure that everyone feels considered and comfortable in the space.  It is a reciprocal act too. With regards to COVID – as with elsewhere in the city – tenants and guests are encouraged to wear masks and practice physical distancing. And although it is not an explicit protocol, broader community safety is maintained by looking-out for neighbours.

When you are away from AWB, what do you like to do in your personal time that helps you get through these uncertain times?

When I am not at the Barns, I enjoy being outside as much as possible. I feel more hopeful about the  world when I can swim or ride my bicycle to new places.

What advice would you give to other essential workers taking care of public spaces during these uncertain times?

If anything, this experience has emphasized the need for balance and endurance. I am working on this every day.  It is helpful to be reminded to be patient with yourself and your colleagues; take breaks and ask for help when you need it.

Thank you for all that you do on a daily basis to keep our Hubs safe and prepare them for reopening in the future. Be sure to say “Hello!” to Alison next time you’re at Artscape Wychwood Barns!