By the Johnson County Museum
When the “Resilience, Reflection, Rebuilding: Artists Respond to COVID-19” exhibition opened at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center (JCAHC) on August 1, 2020, it struck a chord with viewers. With over 60 pieces of art created during the pandemic by more than 50 artists, the exhibit reveals how deeply COVID-19 has impacted individuals in our community. Although the artworks are colorful, the artist statements disclose worlds turned upside down and a deep sense of anxiety.
One of the stated goals of the exhibit was to provide the public a chance to process and reflect on the pandemic, how it has impacted lives and society, and what the future might look like in a post-pandemic world. As visitors – including tens of thousands of folks waiting in line to vote at JCAHC – take in the artwork, it is clear the artwork is connecting with the viewer. An upcoming slate of programs around “Resilience, Reflection, Rebuilding” and its themes will allow the public to dive more deeply into the exhibit and the artwork it presents, a chance to contextualize the exhibit within past pandemics, and an opportunity to learn about art as mental healthcare.
Art and Mental Health
The Arts Council of Johnson County and Johnson County Mental Health are co-hosting a virtual conversation on the intersection of art and mental health on Wednesday, Nov. 18, from 11 am to noon. The conversation will be livestreamed on the Arts Council of Johnson County’s Facebook page.
Inspired by the “Resilience, Reflection, Rebuilding: Artists Respond to COVID-19” exhibition, the virtual program will discuss how the arts can support resilience during COVID-19, be a part of your self-care practices, and help with positive coping skills. Program guests include Johnson County Mental Health Center Executive Director Tim DeWeese; Johnson County Mental Health Center Children and Family Services Team Leader and Clinician Erin Ross; Heartland Art Therapy Therapist Sherri Jacobs, who is also an artist featured in the exhibition; and Artist Brittany Noriega, also featured in the exhibition. The conversation will be moderated by Arts Council of Johnson County Administrative Assistant and visual artist Allison Bowman.
Exhibit Curator’s Talk
In early December, Devin Graham, fine arts coordinator for JCPRD and curator of the “Resilience, Reflection, Rebuilding” exhibit, will provide a free curator’s tour. In this virtual tour, Graham will delve into the exhibit’s origins and development, the installation process, and the artwork on display. The exhibit was carefully curated, and the artwork provides commentary on current events from the pandemic to the social justice protest movement to childcare and virtual learning and working. By diving into the artwork, participants can expect to learn more about their own community.
An additional program – a talk with exhibit artist Smitha George – will be scheduled before the end of the year. George is the artist who created The Impulse, a piece that earned the community votes for a piece that represents this era in Johnson County’s history. The Impulse piece will be added to the Johnson County Museum’s permanent collection as a part of its Collecting COVID-19 Initiative. George was awarded an honorarium from the Johnson County Museum Foundation for her work.
On Jan. 21 at 6 pm, the Johnson County Museum and the Fine Arts Department of JCPRD will present a virtual panel discussion program “Apocalypse Now?” that delves into the history of artwork created in pandemics with a special look at the artwork created 100 years ago.
Professor of Literature at Johnson County Community College Craig Workman, Camille Kulig for Art Bridges, and contributing artists will discuss artwork, literature, and historical accounts from the post-World War I/Great Influenza a century ago, helping viewers place our own era into context. Exhibit curator Devin Graham and Johnson County Museum Curator of Interpretation Andrew Gustafson will join the panel. By understanding the changes to society and norms that came out of the pandemic a century ago, we might envision what a post-pandemic world will look like this time.
The program is free to the public, but participants must register to receive the program link.
There is still time to view the exhibit!
The “Resilience, Reflection, Rebuilding: Artists Respond to COVID-19” exhibition is a product of a unique collaboration between the Johnson County Museum, the Fine Arts Department of JCPRD, and the Arts Council of Johnson County. It is on display for free in JCAHC Commons through Jan. 22 (Monday through Saturday, 9 am – 5 pm). An exhibit flipbook can also be found online: https://jcprd.com/1209/Art-Exhibits. While you are viewing the art, make time see the Johnson County Museum’s “Rising to the Challenge: Suburban Strength in Difficult Times,” also on display for free in the JCAHC Commons.