Seeing it through: Art Apart initiative offers a window to connection

Rainbow drawings by brothers Henry, age 5, and Sam, age 3, are part of the Art Apart initiative. Henry says that rainbows make him feel “happy!," and he wanted to share his drawing “to make people happy.” Sam thinks that rainbows are “pretty,” so he also contributed a rainbow “for friends to see.” Staff photo Rainbow drawings by brothers Henry, age 5, and Sam, age 3, are part of the Art Apart initiative. Henry says that rainbows make him feel “happy!,” and he wanted to share his drawing “to make people happy.” Sam thinks that rainbows are “pretty,” so he also contributed a rainbow “for friends to see.” Staff photo

Art in all its forms accomplishes many things. It can entertain. It can teach us something new about ourselves, or others. It can keep us company, keep us busy, keep us calm. It can inspire. It can comfort. At its core, art is about shared humanity. 

With that in mind, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative and Charlottesville Safe Routes to School have partnered on Art Apart: A City Wide Gallery, which is meant to keep us connected creatively as we separate physically during the threat of the COVID-19 virus.

The idea: Make or find a piece of artwork. Display it in a front window, on a door, or on a porch, so that it can be seen from the sidewalk or street. 

The goal: To brighten the day of those passing by. “To give or find ways to stay connected and inspired, and bring a little bit of beauty into the world. To put it out there in spite of all this fear and uncertainty,” says Alan Goffinski, director of The Bridge PAI.

A few different things inspired Art Apart.

With schools closed until August, Kyle Rodland, Safe Routes to School coordinator for the City of Charlottesville, and his colleagues sought to set up some family-oriented activities that could continue the pedestrian safety skills kids typically learn in school—safely crossing the street at a four-way stop, building bike-riding confidence—at home. “Of course, we want people to be safe in the middle of a pandemic,” says Rodland, but people are going to go out. They’re going to take walks, drive or bike to the store.

Another “Art Apart” contribution. Staff photo

“If we can find something that has artistic value, and physical value, as far as getting some exercise and getting out and moving—it’s kind of a wholesome thing,” says Rodland, who called Goffinski to brainstorm.

Goffinski was moved by a recent post in the Charlottesville Mutual Aid Infrastructure Facebook group: A mother posted a picture of her young son sitting by the window overlooking the parking

lot of their apartment building. She explained that all day, the boy called a friendly “hello!” to folks (all adults) in the parking lot, looking for some sort of human connection as he sat cooped up in the house. Not a single person acknowledged him.

“We can do better than this,” Goffinski thought. He hopes Art Apart might help.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a drawing or a painting or an artwork that you’ve made yourself” to foster that connection, says Goffinski. “It can be one that someone else made that you love, that you want to stick in the window for everyone else to see.

Participants can submit their art to The Bridge’s map of places where artworks can be seen around town. 

“All of these arts organizations in town are doing a Hail Mary, trying to figure out how [we] can be helpful, and be impactful,” Goffinski says. “It’s interesting to see people like Kyle, and all these other arts organizations in town not throwing in the towel, but really fighting to make sure that they’re continuing to do good things.”

 

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