Battling social isolation with communal artmaking

Artmaking is proven to reduce stress levels, foster hope and build connection, so it’s no surprise that so many of us are embracing our ‘inner artist’ during this crisis. Creativity—in all its forms—can help make these challenging times more manageable. In a recent NPR interview, University of Alabama Birmingham neuroscience professor Christianne Strang explained that “creativity in and of itself is important for remaining healthy, remaining connected to yourself and connected to the world”—all of which are invaluable right now. Today we’re sharing a few heartwarming ways people are getting creative with physically distant communal artmaking.

Lifting spirits, one musical porch (or balcony) at a time
With people isolated in their homes, we’re seeing a movement of porch concerts sweep the globe. From this six-piece family band in Wichita Falls, Texas, to solo acts like Maurizio Marchini serenading neighbors in Florence, Italy, and Detroit resident Robert Andersen treating neighbors to impromptu ukulele sets. These casual performances benefit both the performer and listener. In Takoma Park, Md., where neighbors can enjoy different music genres on different porches (from jazz harmonica jam to classical strings), one resident remarked, “I thought it was absolutely wonderful…I was feeling anxiety just kind of drip off me as I got into the music.” The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is fueling this movement with #PlayOnYourPorch—a daily invitation for musicians everywhere (with any instruments/skill level) to film a porch performance and tag @detroitsymphony, spreading their music beyond their neighborhood and out to the Symphony’s large virtual audience. Learn more in the video below.

Letting off steam with ‘social dis-DANCING’
Exercise is crucial right now, as it helps us to remain calm, stay positive and keep our health up. One fun new form of exercise that’s emerging: ‘social dis-DANCING.’ What began as one mother’s daily battle against the quarantine blues has spread to a daily dance party with her neighbors up and down North 16th Street in San Jose, Calif. Similar stories are taking shape in other neighborhoods—from a local DJ’s Friday night happy hours in Lexington, Ky. to neighbors busting a move together from their sidewalks, and balconies every night in Buffalo, NY. We’re all having to find new ways to stay healthy and connected. For an 81-year-old Tennessee grandfather and his six-year-old granddaughter living next door, the answer is a distant daily dance-off (shown below).

Brightening solitary strolls with colorful community art
Although museums and galleries are closed, new local artwork is popping up to encourage, inform and uplift neighbors from a safe distance. In Philadelphia, the “One Philly” public art project gives families weekly creative prompts via Facebook and invites them to display their creations on their sidewalks or front windows. With an interactive map showing active participants (nearly 3,000 so far!) people can enjoy one another’s artwork on their solitary walks. In Philly and beyond, chalk is proving to be a fun and forgiving way to fill neighborhoods with brightness and positivity—from Northeast Ohio “Chalk Walk” group members leaving heart-covered messages on grandparents’ driveways; to Media, Pa., residents leaving motivational reminders like “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity;” to families in Livermore, Calif., making chalk art to thank healthcare workers, truck drivers and grocery store workers. Street artists around the globe are responding to the crisis with larger-scales works—ranging from this playful, motivational reminder in Austin that “Olive us are in this together” to these educational murals in Senegal created to share important safety messages in an area with low literacy rates (piece pictured below by Alpha Sy of Senegalese artist collective, RBS).


Seeing families, friends and neighbors create new ways to build community through art, we’re reminded that “necessity is the mother of invention.” While we can’t be physically close to one another right now, there are plenty of ways we can stay connected to each other…by getting socially creative.

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