Jaysia Pecsek-Dunn, a 2018 Boise State graduate whose performer name is J’Sha, took the stage on March 8 to compete for the crown of Boise’s Next Drag Superstar Season 4. Although each of the three queens left in the competition had a strong fanbase, J’Sha won the competition.
Just as her budding career seemed to be catapulting, the outbreak of COVID-19 forced all local businesses to close their doors, consequently affecting local performers and event staff nationwide.
Drag is only one of the art forms that Boiseans have recently begun to support in large numbers. The local art scene continues to expand with more and more community members gaining support for their craft. Though some artists are getting creative with how to practice their passions through the pandemic, others have been forced to simply wait until their places of work can be reopened.
“It was hard, to be honest. I think the first two days I had this emotional break where I was really upset and I was crying. I think the social-distancing has really heightened all of my emotions,” Pecsek-Dunn said.
Pecsek-Dunn had a busy schedule coming up after winning the local drag competition. She was charted to head to DragCon in Los Angeles, perform at Dragfort and walk in the Seattle Pride Parade.
“There was a part of me that was extremely devastated,” Pecsek-Dunn said. “There was a moment, I think it was a few days, of not wanting to even look at my drag or connect with any of the other drag community members.”
Though the beginning of the mass closures and cancellations was difficult for Pecsek-Dunn, she recognized that the dramatic shift right after winning the competition did not signify an end to her career. Rather, she has taken the time to begin exploring what her work means to her.
“It’s been a cool exploration. This has really, I think, made myself and a lot of others explore what our drag looks like,” Pecsek-Dunn said.
Well-known bands set to perform in Boise have also felt the detriments of recent closures. Alex Escobedo, senior media production student, said that these touring bands had local openers, including his own group, A Residual Affinity, who lost the opportunity to perform due to the cancellations.
“One of the [touring bands]we knew were mid-tour and they just had to pack it up, so it’s hard for a lot of our scene, like a lot of DIY bands that are self-touring,” Escobedo said.
Though all have had to alter their lives in some capacity due to the pandemic, Escobedo said that many local musicians are waiting to see how long the current situation lasts before they decide to make any plans for the future such as releasing new music or planning a tour.
“Support smaller artists; it’s really hard right now. To physically buy someone’s merchandise goes a long way. Most of that money goes directly back to the band account,” Escobedo said. “Once this does blow over, support local artists, and especially support touring ones.”
Though Boise performers may be awaiting the day they can get back to what they love, others have also lost their livelihood due to venue closures. Alexis Staton, a senior media arts major, worked at Boise Centre as a server for events that were hosted by a variety of people and groups.
“There’s an app we have with all of our shifts, and it was kind of freaky because it was just like every shift got canceled,” Staton said. “We knew we were kind of the first ones to go, just because we are an event center and that’s the one thing we can’t have.”
Staton said that although the temporary closure was sudden and unexpected, her bosses have been more than supportive to their staff in the transition to unemployment.
“Our managers called me individually, and they’re doing it for each staff member, to see how they’re doing and to see what they can do to help which is really awesome,” Staton said.
The center was also able to give all of the perishable food that they had stored to members of their staff, as well as changing certain staff’s jobs so that they could still make money despite not having any events.
Though performers such as J’Sha and Escobedo may not be able to interact with the fans that support their art and those like Staton may be unsure when their jobs will be restored, people around the Boise area are finding ways to support people within their community. Meanwhile, those that will one day be back on the stage are taking the time to think about their creative pursuits and how best to nourish them during and after isolation.