Making History, COVID-19

COVID-19 Art

Artifact #2: COVID-19 Art

Sydney Flores, Student, Fitchburg State University

For my mini-exhibition I chose the topic COVID-19. Throughout the research process for choosing artifacts, I was gravitated towards art and photography because I think art had a huge impact during the pandemic. I chose two photographs, and a piece of artwork that all surrounded the New England area. Since we are currently living through the pandemic, it was harder finding physical artifacts, such as statues or buildings. I found myself searching two key words, “art” and “COVID,” I stumbled across many great art pieces as well as photography. After writing my third and final catalog entry, something clicked in my mind. The use of art and photography was an outlet for many people especially during lockdown that started in the beginning of the pandemic. All forms of art have contributed to many lives of all different ages in many ways during the dark and lonely time of the pandemic.

First, I want to focus on art therapy and what it is used for. Art has been a form of therapy for many years that many do not know about. American Art Therapy Association is a big organization that purely focuses on art therapy for all ages. The organization's definition for art therapy is: “Art Therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.” (About) The main goal of art therapy is to have the person tap into their creative side when dealing with stress or hardships. Art therapy helps the person with expressing their emotions and coping with certain things that are happening in their life. Instead of turning to something negative, the person should turn to art. Express your feelings through your artwork, art is very therapeutic and can help calm someone down during hard times. I think many people participated in art therapy during the pandemic maybe without realizing it. Mallory Braus and Brenda Morton of George Fox University, Oregon wrote an article on the importance of during COVID. They stated multiple times throughout the article that isolation especially during COVID has led to an increase of mental illness and the use of art helped many. A few examples the authors stated about the use of art during the pandemic is, “Families are finding ways to utilize sidewalk chalk and signs outside their homes to thank essential workers. Baking goods are some of the hardest to find in stores as families utilize this newfound time and isolation to “create” literally the bread on their table. Arts and crafts have become a common trend as individuals find “do it yourself” methods to make and design their own masks. Musicians share their artistic talents from balconies, and entire neighborhoods join together to applaud medical and emergency responders. Video recordings of creative ways individuals are coping with this unknown time under “stay at home” orders are going viral.” (Morton) These are all forms of art therapy, even if people are not realizing that, they are still expressing themselves and trying to get through the pandemic slowly but surely. My artifacts really captured art therapy, first the half-staff flag which was a photograph but held a lot of meaning behind it. Second was an art piece submitted by a Harvard student, whose friend passed due to covid complications, there is a high chance she could have painted that to help cope with the loss of her friend. Lastly, the photograph of the rent strike in New York shows art therapy through the signs in the back that were posted onto apartment buildings.

Not only is art an outlet for many during the pandemic, but in the beginning of lockdown it was also used for connecting with others. During the begging months of the pandemic, everyone was strongly encouraged to stay home to prevent the spread. This meant people were not able to see their friends and family for a long period of time and often felt lonely or disconnected from the “real world.” No one was able to socialize with people in person, so art was used to connect people. Many think art is only painting or drawing, but it also includes singing, dancing, poetry, and more. Art is pretty much anything anyone uses to express themselves. Susan Cook, director of Wisconsin School of Music stated, “Engaging with the arts — in our case through making music or listening to music — provides solace, awakens curiosity and allows us to be in the moment with our thoughts and feelings. It reminds us of our essential humanity and so often brings us kinds of beauty so necessary in times of struggle.” (Rice) She stated many of her students are trying to take on a cool approach to making music to cope throughout the pandemic. Many are putting on virtual concerts,dancers are putting together dance videos, or artists holding drawing classes to connect with the public and make lockdown more bearable. Everyone of all ages have participated in some way of the arts during the pandemic, even if they didn't know. Professor David Furumoto, who is a part of the Theater and Drama department at University of Wisconsin stated a very valid claim about the arts, “Too often the arts are taken for granted. Perhaps this is a time for us to realize that it is through the arts that we can experience our humanity, the good as well as the bad, and to know that no matter the immensity being faced, artists will be there, in whatever medium they express themselves in, to make us laugh, weep, and perhaps most important, make us think about what it is to be human.” (Rice) Furutomo made a very valid point about art, many take art for granted but during this time the arts were one of the only ways people were able to stay connected. Art is used during good and bad times and should always be appreciated because it really can have a huge impact on someone's life. Everyone needs to always appreciate artistry everyday and not only when bad things occur in life, such as COVID.

Lastly, I want to touch on the importance of art and how it limited screen time for many people. Throughout the pandemic there was not much to do at all, especially when it began and everything was closed. We all stayed at home and already had deep cleaned our house, baked cookies, and all that good stuff, so what else was there left to do? Go on your phone, laptop, or tv. Screen time was at an all time high, not only would people go on their phone to cure their boredom but also many events were hosted online, a major one for kids was school. Screen time especially for students can be very difficult. An excessive amount of screen time can not only impair your vision slowly, but for teens especially it can affect their mental health. Valley Wide Health stated a large amount of screen time daily can negatively affect someone by leading to: obesity, sleep problems, chronic neck and back pain, depression, and anxiety. (Aris) Many people try to reduce screen time and some have found an outlet that is art. As I mentioned in one of my catalog entries, Harvard created the “COVID-19 Community Archiving Project”, where students were able to submit art ,poems, and more, this helped many students during the pandemic. They were not only able to do something creative but were also able to express themselves through their work and how COVID related to them. I think screen time has majorly affected young children, so it's important that during these times of online school, children have a break from the internet and partake in an activity or even channeling their creativity.

COVID has been a very hard virus that has impacted everyone all over the world. Art was sometimes the only thing to turn to. All forms of art have contributed to many lives of all different ages in a lot of ways during the dark time of the pandemic. The use of art had been very valued during the pandemic as it was a way of connecting with others and expressing emotions. All of my artifacts fall under the importance of art, two photographs and a piece of artwork, which all three have deep meanings behind them. My main idea throughout writing my mini-exhibition was the importance of art. As stated above many people don't value art enough, but when the pandemic started art was all that was left for people to do and it became a major part of coping during COVID-19. There aren't many physical artifacts with COVID, but there are so many pictures, art pieces, songs, and more that people are creating to express themselves. These artifacts will be looked at in the future and people will be able to understand how many were feeling during the dark time of the pandemic.

“About the American Art Therapy Association.” American Art Therapy Association, 2017, arttherapy.org/about/

Aris Mosley. “The Negative Effects of Screen Time for Adults and Children - Blog -Valley Wise Health.” Wellness Now, Valley Wise Health, 10 Oct. 2020,
blog.valleywisehealth.org/negative-effect-of-screen-time-adults-children/.

Morton, Brenda, and Mallory Braus. “APA PsycNet.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2020,
psycnet.apa.org/record/2020-37310-001

Rice, Gwendolyn. “The Necessity of the Arts in a Time of Pandemic: How the University of Wisconsin–Madison Is Responding.” Division of the Arts, University of
Wisconsin–Madison, 16 Apr. 2020,
artsdivision.wisc.edu/2020/04/16/necessity-of-arts-in-pandemic/.

“19 Community Archiving Project.” COVID, The President and Fellows of Harvard College , covid19.archives.harvard.edu/