By Cade Martin

As a kid I spent many a dinner at a table surrounded by friends of my parents, an eclectic cast of characters — sculptors, writers, painters, creatives. That thread of creative community has remained in our offices, our teams, and our collaborations. But that thread feels thinner in this moment. 

So I asked, with the purpose of sharing, and of supporting and caring for this creative community in its current, uncertain reality. I asked what people are doing, how they are feeling, how they are sparking creativity. It feels important to share what we do, when we can’t do all our doing.

Reaching out first to some of the talented people I’ve had the good fortune to profile though the Capitol Communicator portrait series.  It’s my version of a virtual dinner table of sorts. Grab a chair. 

Kevin, what, if anything, are you doing differently?

I’m staying home. This is not a virus I want to mess with—not that anybody does—but the visuals of ventilators hit too close for comfort. Check out the top photo.

Just over two years ago, I had a mysterious asthma attack that landed me in the hospital. After rounds of respiratory treatment, CT scans, x-rays and flu tests, no answers were identified, and my breathing became critical.

I was moved into the Intensive Care Unit and my last visual was a large group of doctors with arms crossed looking at me as though to say, huh? I gasped for air and a nurse walked in with a bag of ominous syringes. My wife said everything would be OK as I fell into respiratory failure. I was placed in a medically induced coma and hooked up to a ventilator, and back then, “ventilator” was not an everyday news story. For three days I laid there with a machine breathing for me and my family at my side. I’m sure this time was much more difficult for them.

Luckily, my body rallied, and the call was made to take me off the ventilator. This process is ugly. Fentanyl, Ketamine and Propofol make for a rough hangover, and the loss of time and space made it hard to find myself again. It was an out-of-body experience. I literally didn’t know who I was or where I was, but my wife was there to remind me. It was Valentine’s day and she held my hand.

Today’s battle with COVID-19 is scary. It seems unfathomable, but to me it’s relatable. The part I can’t imagine is going through it without my family at my side. It’s terrible to think of being alone in the hospital and it’s cruel how this disease prohibits togetherness in someone’s moment of need. The good news? I can attest to the dedication and talent of the medical community, and I know we have our best people at the frontline. I will be praying for those impacted, and I’m doing my part by staying home. 

Are you staying creatively active?

Challenges lead to creativity. And wow, do we ever have a challenge on our hands. We’d be naive to think a pandemic wouldn’t impact our business, but in other ways it has challenged us to think, and work, creatively. Which thankfully, is our business. Subject Matter focuses on Creative Advocacy with a number of clients in the public health and wellness sectors, all of which are very active in this current environment. The media mix has shifted from one side of our business to the other and our people have gone from open floorplans to work-from-home plans, but out of chaos comes creativity. It’s been pretty cool to see the entire team rise to the occasion and help our clients in any way possible.

How are you sparking yourself creatively?

I started by shaving my beard into a mustache – see the photo above – because I heard you can’t put a mask over a beard. Then I decided to go all the way and shave my hair into a mullet. Neither led to more creativity, but both are creative tactics for keeping people at a distance. Other than that, I think pressure is the biggest creative spark. And today the pressure is tremendous. Pressure to deliver ideas (from home), pressure to drive revenue to keep business afloat and pressure to keep my team engaged. Pressure calls for people to work together to solve complex problems. It creates immediacy and demands focus and fortitude, and even though it’s not always pretty, it brings out the best in our work. As a society, we can only hope the pressure of today sparks lasting creative solutions.

You can check out Kevin Richards profile here.

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