As for many organizations, business-as-usual will simply be impossible for the Arete Project in the coming months. This was already slated to be an unusual summer; we’d hoped to pilot several new kinds of courses and workshops on our brand-new campus. Unfortunately, all of these have either been canceled or deferred. The city of Gustavus has banned all non-essential travel through July 1st, and even beyond, we can’t foresee a way we can safely quarantine large groups of students. We are still holding out hope that we can welcome a few non-local volunteers or interns later in the summer, but even that is unclear.
Like many educational organizations, we considered moving our courses online. But the heart of our model lies in the creation of a robust educational community where living and learning meld seamlessly into one another. Distance learning bears no resemblance to this beloved model and offers none of the same educational benefits. Rather than hastily slap together an online program – in which, by the way, we have no institutional expertise – we’ve simply decided to put our normal courses on hold until the pandemic passes.
But by no means are we taking the year off. The Arete Project is a nonprofit organization, bound to serve the public good. We are in the midst of a global crisis, and there are many, many kinds of service that need to be done now. So, for the moment, we’re thinking beyond our mission, returning to the most fundamental question: how do we use the resources we have to do the most good that we can?
It’s required a quick pivot, but how we’re answering that question:
supporting local learning
The Gustavus public school is currently delivering online education to its students through the end of the school year. The Arete Project offering our support to local teachers to help develop place-based, experiential content that students can do in their own homes and back yards. We are also partnering with the Gustavus Public Library to assemble an anthology of creative work done by community members during the crisis. “Fever Dreams: Pandemic Projects from Gustavus, Alaska” will feature written and visual work from people of all ages: a time capsule from a very strange spring and a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of this little town!
shoring up icy strait food security
Rural Alaskan communities are at the very tail end of the national supply chain, which is already showing signs of weakening. We don’t know what the fall and winter will hold. Perhaps the crisis will abate, and everything will be fine! But in the worst case scenario, a second spike of Covid-19, a deep recession, or a broken supply chain could massively destabilize food security in our remote towns. As the Arete Project has some of the best garden space in town, we’re spending summer 2020 growing as many local calories as we possibly can! Proceeds from our big bountiful garden will be divided equally between food banks in Gustavus and our neighboring town of Hoonah.
providing local employment
Gustavus has a highly seasonal economy based largely around fishing and tourism: two industries that have virtually been shuttered by Covid-19. Meanwhile, the Arete Project has LOTS of outdoor, social-distance-friendly, gardening and construction work to do this summer! Without our expected cadre of staff, interns, volunteers, and students, instead we’ll hire locals to help us with the same projects, prioritizing individuals who have lost income due to the pandemic. We encourage anyone who wishes to support this cause to make a tax-deductible donation here. 100% of proceeds will be plowed back into our local economy. We also hope to recruit local volunteers who are wiling to donate their time to a good cause!
View our Covid-19 Response Plan.