Tags for: Creativity in a Time of Uncertainty
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Creativity in a Time of Uncertainty

Jennifer DePrizio, Interim Director of Public and Academic Engagement
April 24, 2020
Mosaic of Tigress and Cubs, 300s CE. Eastern Roman Empire. 1987.65

As part of the Home Is Where the Art Is digital initiative, the museum is offering online education programming to inspire families to dive into art-based creative challenges, games, music, and stories — all from home. In today’s blog, CMA staff member Jennifer DePrizio, Interim Director of Public and Academic Engagement shares a firsthand account of how she is managing working from home and her young child’s education.

Creation Station, Image courtesy Jennifer DePrizio.

Like so many in our community, I am navigating the complexity of working full-time at home while also directly managing my child’s education. Six weeks into this “new normal,” we’re still figuring it out in my house. My daughter is away from her friends and the routine of the school day, with virtual chats as her only connection beyond mom and dad, so we experience many ups and downs and lots of big emotions. My daughter waffles between a desire for full independence and being glued to my side.

Image: Tigress and Cubs, 300s. Italy, Roman, Eastern Roman Empire, 4th century. Tesserae; overall: 142.9 x 135.4 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund 1987.65

A conversation we often have in our house is to share what may have happened on a given day and how that caused us to feel. For example: “What made you happy today? What made you sad?” We can further our exploration by discussing works of art with emotionally expressive faces. Articulating how we are feeling is important for both parents and children. Given how I feel many days, I can only imagine how difficult it is for a young child’s mind and heart to make sense of our current situation.

Now more than ever we all lean on art to provide mental and emotional support. Art gives us strength and hope. Looking at and talking about art together is a great way to explore the world around us and to discuss how we see our place in it. The lessons in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s newly launched Family Collection Connections provide these chances to learn together through a work of art.

Amid the bouts of “I’m bored” and the stress to turn in all her assignments through the online portal on time, my daughter is kept grounded by art and creativity. She is a budding artist and loves to draw, so we squeeze in as much opportunity for creativity as we can. One of the first things we did when social distancing began was set up a “creation station.” This is a tray filled with supplies we collected from around the house — paper, washi tape, popsicle sticks, pom-poms, etc. We can make whatever strikes our fancy.

Creation Station, Image courtesy Jennifer DePrizio.

Given that kids probably feel like they have no control these days, our little one directs our activity. This gives her a small but powerful way to have some ownership and autonomy. One of our ongoing projects is making “furfulls,” a creative cast of characters. I find myself feeling less stressed as we sit and create together, and my daughter receives the attention and connection she seems to be craving.

Furfulls, Image courtesy Jennifer DePrizio.

Another family favorite is drawing together. I work at an art museum, but I do not possess any great artistic skill in the traditional sense. Like many, we have watched author Mo Willems conduct weekly drawing sessions, and we subsequently stumbled on the fun, easy-to-follow Art for Kids Hub on YouTube. Over the past six weeks, my daughter has made tons of drawings from this series. Food with Faces is a particularly favorite category, so we were excited when this week’s CMA Sketch activity was to draw food. Here is our friendly breakfast of bacon, eggs, waffle, and juice box.

Image courtesy Jennifer DePrizio.

During the COVID-19 closure, CMA staff is developing new learning tools, programs, and resources through the “Home Is Where the Art Is” initiative to continue its mission of “creating transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people forever.” Here is a summary of the new resources and a teaser of what’s to come:

Watch New Weekly Videos
To learn about recently installed exhibitions and enjoy personal reflections on works in the collection, a new video series offers deep insights from CMA curators.

Family Learning: Collection Connection
For parents like me who are looking for meaningful ways to stay connected with their kids, thematic Collection Connections lessons provide art-based activities and projects to encourage exploration of the CMA collection.

Create and Draw
Taking inspiration from works in the collection, weekly sketching and art-making activities appear on the museum’s social media channels.

CMA Create and Sketch Challenges occur weekly on the museum’s social media channels.

Weekly Live Events: Desktop Dialogues
Debuting Wednesday, April 29 at noon!
Participatory programs are a hallmark of the CMA, and because we miss interacting with our audiences, we are developing interactive online programs that will provide opportunities to learn about works of art in the collection with CMA staff.

In moments of stress, like the one we find ourselves in, I remind myself that the power of art remains constant whether we are in the galleries or looking at images from home. Since ancient times, art has explored the most complex human concerns, making visual what is abstract. Through art we can consider the full measure of our collective human story. At a time when the world is ever more global, but equally insular and isolating because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to find ways to stay connected to our shared humanity. We need opportunities to better understand that the world is bigger than our own individual universe and that it is complicated and full of uncertainty but also full of hope.