J. Leigh Garcia

Profile image of J. Leigh Garcia

Name: J. Leigh Garcia

Title: Assistant Professor of Print Media and Photography/Center for the Visual Arts

What is your expertise? What are your research interests?

Printmaking and undocumented immigration between Mexico and the United States.

How long have you worked at Kent State?

This is my second semester.

When do you first remember hearing about COVID-19 or the "coronavirus?" Did you have any sense at all that it would have as large an impact as it has on our day-to-day life? 

I first heard about COVID-19 in January of 2020 while traveling to Florida. China was getting hit hard by the coronavirus, but I did not think it would make such an impact on the United States. I thought COVID-19 would be similar to the Swine Flu or Ebola resulting in the United States experiencing only a few quarantined cases.

Is there any experience you have had in your life up until now that compares with what we all are currently navigating? If so, what was it?

I lived in Pensacola, FL last year and experienced two hurricanes. Before both hurricanes, people went on mass shopping frenzies for essential products like water, canned food, paper towels, etc. This panic buying is something I have seen during our COVID-19 pandemic.

How has your day-to-day life changed? What does your new "routine" look like now?

Since the pandemic, my sister who lives in NC has come to live with my husband and I. The three of us wake up late, usually around 10am, and go to sleep late, usually around 2am. This is unusual for us, but we find that we feel less guilty watching TV, relaxing, engaging in mental health activities, and being unproductive if the sun is down. During the day, the three of us work individually on our laptops in a common area. We take breaks for lunch and to walk our dog. We spend a lot more time cooking and cleaning. We play games, make puzzles and crafts, and go outside as much as possible for mental health.

COVID-19 and our collective response is one of the most interdisciplinary phenomena many of us have seen/experienced. How would you describe how your discipline/research interests/expertise contributes a valuable perspective to our better understanding and responding to COVID-19? 

As an artist, I recognize that a lot of people are turning to the arts for mental health during this pandemic. I've seen non-printmakers take this time as an opportunity to try accessible, DIY printmaking processes to keep themselves busy at home. Additionally, in a time when our collective experience is so hard to verbally document and communicate, I know artists are working hard at home to express their experiences visually. I've seen photography online and on the news documenting our spaces, but I think after we emerge from self quarantine, we will see more artists' work exploring the pandemic. My personal artwork explores my biracial heritage. This pandemic has already begun to shed light on racial inequities, and I can see this coming into my work in the future.

If you had to embark upon a scholarly project (e.g., research, a new course) right now related to COVID-19 and our collective response, what would that look like?

My research interests include undocumented immigration of Latinx people (specifically from Mexico to Texas). I would be interested in taking part in any project that supported or engaged with undocumented people during the pandemic. Undocumented people make up a large percentage of our essential workers population (an estimated 70% of the agricultural industry). They deserve to be supported through this difficult time. As an artist, the skills I have to offer include free art education to undocumented people and/or their children, or public art with educational components to give this demographic a platform.

What other discipline (even without any expertise or knowledge in that area) could you see helpfully complementing yours in pursuit of your new COVID-19 project?

Political science, immigration law