Community building in a social distancing world

Tracey Joy and Jim Bompensa are just two South Jersey residents and business owners staying in touch with the the public during the pandemic through online classes and events

When 2020 began, Tracey Joy, owner of Medford-based Spotted Frog Art Studio, was hosting paint parties where she would teach groups of between 50 and 100 attendees a variety of art projects.

Jim Bompensa, owner of Body Physics Fitness and Haddonfield United Martial Arts, was busy teaching a wide variety of classes at his downtown Haddonfield location.

Neither of them could imagine how different things would become once mid-March arrived.

The COVID-19 pandemic has ended any sort of sizable social gathering in New Jersey and many parts of the United States for the foreseeable future. Joy saw all of her events canceled, while Bompensa was forced to close his gym following an order from the state government on March 17.

Despite the downsides of the closure, Joy and Bompensa have both found a way to stay connected with local residents from a distance. They are just two of the many residents, businesses and organizations around the country who have taken to platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Zoom to continue holding events typically done in person and provide activities for residents stuck at home. For some, the virtual community has provided fulfillment and shows how people don’t have to be so distant from each other during social distancing.

“It’s just been awesome, the messages people give me afterward and even during the class,” Joy said of art classes online.

For Joy, online classes are a complete change from what she usually does with her business. Spotted Frog Art Studio’s business model consists of hosting paint parties at homes, restaurants and other establishments around the region. At the parties, students will follow along with Joy as she draws a portrait, paints a wine glass or teaches another art activity.

When the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all of her upcoming events, Joy wanted to find another way to bring the community closer together.

“I wanted to bring something into the home of the people knowing they are in the same situation as I am,” she said.

Posted by Spotted Frog Art Studio LLC on Thursday, March 26, 2020

During the pandemic, Joy hosts a full series of art classes on the Spotted Frog Art Studio Facebook page. Classes for kids are held at 1 and 6:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. She  also plans to start art classes for adults on Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m.

The classes are all different and can be done with pencil, crayons, paper and other material many families have around the house.

“I list all of my events on my event page so they know what’s coming up for the week,” Joy explained. “Everything is different. We’ve done some fun animals. We’ve had some aliens that we’ve been drawing.”

Tracey Joy, owner of Medford-based Spotted Frog Art Studio has been hosting multiple art classes during the week on her businesses’ Facebook page during the pandemic. She creates a collage of work that people share with her after each class. These sloth drawings were shared following a class last Tuesday.

The response to Joy’s classes has been very positive, with viewers coming from well outside the South Jersey area. Joy has been in contact with people as far away as California, Oregon and Canada, some of whom have become regular viewers of her classes.

“I have people without kids logging on to do it,” she said. “It helps them pass the time. It gives them something to do during the day.

The classes have also given Joy a great deal of fulfillment and community engagement she never imagined she’d receive when the pandemic first started.

“I’m not in front of a room of 50 to 100 people, but I have the same people hopping on every day and I’m ‘meeting’ new people,” Joy noted.

Providing a service to the greater community is something Bompensa also had in mind shortly after his gym closed about two weeks ago. He shifted many of his classes and one-on-one workouts online, but he and his 13-year-old daughter, Mia, wanted to do something more.

Shortly after the gym’s closure, Jim and Mia began filming fitness and martial arts classes for anyone to view on YouTube for free. The martial arts classes are geared toward children and are about seven minutes each. They focus on some basic exercises and karate moves both easy to do and fun for kids to perform.

“When we decided to do those classes, we wanted to make it something children wanted to watch,” Jim said. “We wanted to keep it fun and not too serious.”

“Those classes are only about seven minutes long,” he added. “As with most things, even starting with the basics takes some practice.”

Mia Bompensa and her dad, Jim Bompensa, teach a martial arts class on YouTube. The Bompensas began recording fitness and martial arts lessons and posting them on their YouTube channel after gyms and fitness centers across the state were closed due to the pandemic.

Mia, a student-instructor at her dad’s martial arts academy, has enjoyed doing the classes with Jim, typically filming them in the afternoon after she completes her school work for the day.

“I get my work done fairly early, so it gives me something to do and hang out with my dad,” she said.

The family togetherness is a bright spot during the pandemic for Jim and Mia. The stay-at-home order from the governor has allowed them to touch the community while spending more time with each other.

“It’s actually been fun,” Jim said. “It’s been a distraction from some of the negativity we hear out there in the media. It keeps us busy and it’s something I can do with my daughter.”

Jim is also offering a free, six-week workout program to any residents looking for an exercise program during the pandemic. Residents who are interested in the downloadable program and want more information can contact Jim by email at jbompensa@hotmail.com,,  and by visiting www.bodyphysicsfitness.com or its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/bodyphysicsfitness. To view Jim and Mia’s free fitness and martial arts classes, visit the Bompensa’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/channel/UCOdNzj2dAQlRd8X55aeJaEQ.

Residents who are interested in viewing one of Joy’s free Facebook classes can visit www.facebook.com/SpottedFrogArtStudio. All of the previous classes are archived for viewing and upcoming classes for the week ahead are listed. To contact Joy directly, message the Spotted Frog Art Studio Facebook page.