LIFE DURING COVID-19:
STORIES OF THE EVERYDAY
We're in the middle of a historical moment of collective experience and trauma.
So many people have been struggling over the past few weeks to make sense of what's happening in their personal lives during the COVID-19 pandemic but also at more social levels.
As an artist, I realized I could offer a space where people could share stories about their pandemic experiences — as a way to document and reflect on what's happened and will happen.
But also as an offering:
I'd like to use your story as inspiration in my own artwork.
Specifically, I'd read your story and think about it for awhile. Then, I'd write a poem and draw an illustration that captures the heart of it in some way.
My goal is to create pieces of art that explore how people around the world react to, cope with, and think about what's happened in the past several weeks and what will happen in the future.
Essentially, we'd collaborate to uncover insights from stories about everyday life — insights that may inspire or comfort others or let them know they're not alone in all this.
Want to share your story?
Let's collaborate to create art about life during the pandemic.
Will my story be public?
Your story can be anonymous, but I'd love to recognize your role in the process.
So let me know if you'd be willing to share your story publicly in your own words.
How do I share my story?
Simply choose a topic below.
There are two specific topics but also an "open" category if you'd like to talk about something different.
In that case, I'll pair your story with my own artwork in the final prints.
Then click "Share My Story" under the topic you want.
Your story can be short or long — however you feel like responding. I just want to hear from you in your own words.
Thank you for sharing your experiences.
If you'd like to know a little more about me, the motivations behind this project, or how your story would be incorporated, read on!
Initial Call for StoriesDear friends and (current) strangers, please share this call far and wide! Call for Collaboration: Will you share your stories with me? We are in the middle of what is becoming (has become?) a historical moment of collective experience and trauma. I’ve heard so many people struggle over the past few weeks to make sense of what’s happening in their personal lives during the COVID-19 pandemic but also at more collective levels. People are dealing with this in so many different ways. I’ve volunteered my time and resources and talked with people about our local (and national) pandemic responses. But I also realized I might be able to contribute something artistically — offer a space where, if you feel like sharing, I could build on your stories as a foundation to create poetry and block prints. As a kind of collaborative move toward meaning-making in these uneasy times. So I decided to send out this Call for Stories to try to create something larger: to explore the human moments in what’s happened so far and what will happen in upcoming weeks. I hope some of you will have the energy and feel moved to respond: If you have a story about your pandemic experiences that you’d be willing to share (anonymously or publicly), please let me hear it one of the following ways: (1) Send me an email with your story (firstname.lastname@example.org) (2) DM me with your story via FB You can write your story, record yourself telling it (mp3), or even use your phone to video record your story (mp4) if that feels more natural to you. It can be short or long or anywhere between — however you feel compelled to respond. I just want to hear from you in your words. In particular, over the next month, I’ll collect stories across three different topics. I’d love to hear yours if you feel moved to share it. Here’s the first topic: Topic 1: Apocalypse | Revolution One of the images/memes going around (by The Tower) captures two major ways people seem to be thinking about the pandemic. It says, “Stop imagining the Apocalypse. Start imagining the Revolution.” That got me thinking about the doomsday feelings people have expressed — but also the ways people have talked about the need for great change in our future politics and the world in general. So here are my questions about those two sides of the coin: In your experiences [so far] during the pandemic, what has been your moment of greatest fear? What struck terror in your soul — what caused that feeling, and what did you do in response? Tell me a story about what you’ve feared, why you’ve feared it, how you’ve responded, what it’s made you think about, and how or whether it’s shaped your actions in any way. Now, if you can, also tell me a story about your strongest hope for the future. Tell me about the biggest insight or change you’ve experienced as a result of the pandemic. Or tell me what has caused you to think differently about what the future should or could look like. What’s something that’s happened that made you think differently about how you want the world to be — in terms of politics, relationships, jobs, how we think about time, or anything else? What do you want to change about how we tend to live in the world, and what happened to make you to realize that? Ultimately, the product of this process will probably be a set of block prints and poems that unpack the moments in the stories I hear. Thank you for reading this and for considering sharing your experiences. Note: If you send an email or a DM, please include the following pieces of information with your story (if you’re comfortable doing so) — and then let me know if you’d be willing to share any (and which) of those pieces of information publicly when the collection is released: name, age, location, gender / preferred pronouns, profession, and your story in your own words.
Who are you?My name is Jessica Ruthven, and I’m a visual artist, writer, and medical anthropologist. I’m from Mississippi, but my work has taken me all over the place — both within the United States and outside the country. I was an academic for a long time, and I specialized in infectious disease. But a couple of years ago, I started transitioning back to my artistic roots. Since then, I’ve started an arts studio (Stone Cicada Studio) and founded an editing company where I help authors plan out and write their books.
Why are you collecting stories?My own reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic have pretty much been like a rollercoaster. One minute, I’m stricken by terror over the health of my little circle of friends and family, the next I’m thinking about all the structural factors that have combined to deeply influence our lives, and then I pendulum toward righteous anger when I read about some of the injustices going around. Five minutes later, I switch back to being awed by the sheer solidarity and compassion some people, groups, and organizations have demonstrated in all this mess. And I struggle to make sense of all those extreme reactions. A lot of people have written over the past few weeks about the role artists have to play in this pandemic. Largely, people have focused on how artists can raise awareness about various facets of the pandemic or on how they can help — both now and in the future — make sense of what’s been happening. That’s a great strength of art generally — making sense. Building meaning. Creating understanding. Unraveling tangled thoughts to generate knowledge. Or even simply raising critically important questions that ask us all to sit with the trouble, the difficulties, the personal conundrums, and the politics rather than to brush them aside. And then to work through them ourselves. This can happen at levels individual to collective. I feel compelled in this moment in time to contribute what I can to those sense-making efforts. So I decided to start this project. I envision using my skills in writing and block-printing to create a set of prints or a book that collects and unpacks the strengths of these stories from people — of all ages, from different places— around the world.
What will you do with my story?Essentially, I’ll read your story, sit with it for awhile and think about it, and then write a poem either in response to or in representation of it. I’ll pair that with a minimalist block-print design that evokes some aspect of your story. Those will be outcomes of this process: a poem and accompanying block print that captures your story in some way. The final collection will include my artistic interpretation of your story (through poetry and block print). I’ll pair that with a reference to any of the following pieces of information that you’d like me to include (but only if you want it included): your name, age, general location (state or country), gender, and profession. Also, if you want me to include your photograph and/or your story in your own words, I will do that. I can’t guarantee your story will be included in the final collection, but I’m going to work on as many stories as I can over the next month.
Will you share any of my details with the public?I will not share any of your direct details with the public unless you specify that you’d like me to do so. The product of this process will be my own artistic interpretation of your story, so your story in your own words will not be shared with anyone unless you give me permission to do so. I would love to be able to include/pair your name, age, general location, profession, a photograph of you, and your story in your own words with the artistic product that results from my process. You (through your story) are an important collaborator in this project, and I would very much like to be able to publicly acknowledge and recognize your role. But I realize many people’s stories may be sensitive, or people may have other important reasons for wanting to remain anonymous. If you wish to remain anonymous, I will protect your information to my full capacity. Bottom line: I will only share the pieces of information that you say I can share with the public. When you write to me with your story, please let me know which of the following pieces of information (if any) you’d be willing to make public in this project: Name Age Location Gender / preferred pronouns Profession Your story in your own words Photograph of you
Where should I send my story?If you feel like sharing, please email your story to me at email@example.com Thank you