Safety & Flow: Ilana Krepchin Shares Her Thoughts on Reopening

DATE:  July 20, 2020     CATEGORIES:  Classes

Member and Jewelry Instructor Ilana Krepchin (center) quickly joined Artisan’s PPE production efforts, including shield making.

The smell of sawdust, the heat of a blow torch, the buzz of a table saw—these elements have been missing from our facilities since the State of Massachusetts issued its stay at home order in March. Now as the state slowly reopens, Artisan’s Asylum is examining how we can resume in-person classes safely while still providing a quality, hands-on experience. 

We will welcome back students for classes on Aug. 1. And those familiar with our classes will spot many changes—all carefully implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep everyone on site safe. Artisan’s Reopening Team (ART) has closely examined data and guidelines from the CDC and the State of Massachusetts to develop comprehensive protocols. 

Although everyone is anxious and excited to get back to learning and making, instructor and member Ilana Krepchin notes that Artisan’s Asylum is taking safety and reopening very seriously. “It has to be safe, or else we won’t [reopen],” she says.

Ilana has been volunteering for ART since May. She also serves as our Jewelry Shop lead and works as an elected official on Somerville’s School Committee. Ilana has also been an essential of Artisan’s PPE production teams during the months the Asylum was closed to the public. Her unique perspectives within the Asylum and commitment to community make her a natural fit for the committee and an important asset. “I’m always willing to help,” says Ilana. “I’m always willing to listen and distill [information] to what ideas make sense.”

For classes, many of the changes include cleaning shared-tools between student use, continually disinfecting workspaces and social distancing. “Our large, 42,000 sq. ft. space helps with social distancing,” Ilana says. “We also have a lot of creative and smart members who jump in to solve problems when needed.”  

One of the most important changes to classes will be fewer students per class. “The main thing, I think, is limited numbers [of students],” she says. “I’m also figuring out the flow [for each class]. Most of what people make is done at an individual bench, but there are also tools in other parts of the studio they need to use. So figuring out the flow of how to get people to move around and use those tools [while social distancing] is important.” 

Artisan’s has face masks and face shields available to students who would like to purchase additional personal protective equipment.

Although some risk is associated with being indoors, Ilana points out that good ventilation within the facility will help decrease potential exposure to COVID-19. But as an extra precaution, class length will also be shorter. “As a goal, I’m trying to think of a way [to have classes] limited to two hours,” she says.  

Ilana volunteered for the gown team during the Covid-19 PPE shortage crisis. Here she drills thumb holes in isolation gowns distributed locally.

Instructors are also brainstorming new ideas to maintain social distancing during in-class demonstrations, such as live video streaming during class. Ilana says, “It’s something that needs to be ironed out, but the idea is to keep people separated and from gathering around instructors [for demonstrations].”

In the weeks and months to come, Ilana looks forward to teaching one of her favorite classes: how to anodize titanium. “It’s fairly quick to learn and gives instant results, which is very satisfying,” she says. “It’s also fun to see how different each student’s results are.”

Everyone in the Artisan’s community has been affected by the pandemic and recent events differently. Ilana, who’s husband is also a nurse, notes that no one in her family has become sick. “So I feel, in some ways, super lucky. … But I worry about everything,” she says. 

For Ilana, Artisan’s mask policy and limited class size make her feel more comfortable to return to in-person teaching. “Everyone has to do—or not do—what makes them comfortable,” she says. “That said, Artisan’s is doing everything with the safety of students and teachers in mind, including limiting the number of students, shortening class length and disinfecting surfaces. I think the benefits of getting out of the house and learning something new in a safe environment outweigh the minimal risks.” 

Check out our full listing of in-person and virtual classes online and sign up. Also, a comprehensive outline of safety protocols for students, including arrival procedures, mask policy and class size, is available on the Artisan’s Asylum website.