Handwritten postcards hang on a line of string at Polk Place.
One postcard includes the phrase, “When you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine” written across a drawing of a sun. Another features a drawing of activist and writer James Baldwin with the quote, “Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
The project, titled “I Was Here: Postcards from the Pandemic,” is part of the University's sixth annual Arts Everywhere Day, a campus-wide initiative that aims to make the arts a central part of the UNC experience for students and community members.
Kathryn Wagner, associate director of Arts Everywhere, said the purpose of the project is to honor and engage staff around their own particular pandemic experience.
“Some are quite personal and intimate," she said. "I told someone earlier, I feel selfishly grateful being able to witness all of this up close.”
On Friday, in-person and virtual Arts Everywhere exhibits and experiences focused on the theme of “Grounded Growth."
Wagner said that student employees and arts ambassadors came up with the theme. The focus is about taking lessons the community has learned together over the past few years and building on them.
“I think the pandemic really has shone a light on structures and processes that were not really working in the world,” Wagner said.
In addition to “I Was Here: Postcards from the Pandemic,” Arts Everywhere Day included an Asian Pacific Islander Desi American student art exhibit and a Poetry Fox event.
Anvesh Rao, a first-year graduate student studying computer science, also attended the APIDA art exhibit. One of the pieces that stood out to him was titled “Now I look Back and Laugh!” by UNC junior Hayden Park.
Rao said that the piece incorporated Park’s identity in a surprising and interesting way by documenting the thoughts Park experienced during the pandemic.
The artwork, which includes printed text as well as a plethora of doodles and small handwritten notes, is a depiction of Park’s experience with mental health. One note reads “I’m sorry” followed by a separate note stating, “I didn’t do the readings.”
On an accompanying plaque, Park wrote:
“My family had shown up for me in the darkest of times last year, reminding me that not only am I not alone, but on the contrary, I am deeply loved and cherished.”
Showcased from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Arts Everywhere Day, the APIDA student art exhibit will be on display at UNC's Asian American Center through this month.
Outside of Davis Library, students lined up for the chance to interact with the Poetry Fox — a person dressed in a giant fox costume who typed custom poems on a vintage typewriter. After being given a word, the fox would have a poem typed within a matter of minutes.
Abbygail Harrison, a junior majoring in English and sociology, said she approached the Poetry Fox because she is currently taking a class that focuses on nature imagery and renaissance poetry.
For her customized poem, she chose the word “chrysanthemum,” a type of flower.
“I really like it whenever people have a creative outlet and as a writer myself, this is really important to me,” Harrison said.
The day also featured “The Big Scream,” when community members gathered on the quad for a "collective, cathartic scream."
Students from the Department of Dramatic Art’s Professional Actor Training Program lead the 20-minute event, guiding participants through various forms of screams such as prolonged laughter and a collective hum.
Sanjana Taskar, an undergraduate student and member of the Playmakers Repertory Company, was one of the leaders of "The Scream" with a crowd of participants.
“It's just like so important to be able to access your feelings in a safe environment,” she said.
Wagner said that Arts Everywhere does everything from student and faculty art grants to supporting new arts curricula in the college of arts and sciences.
She said the initiative seeks to encourage more creativity and curiosity on campus.
“I hope that if there was anybody wandering past any one of the activities that we had going on Friday that didn’t know about us or didn’t know how to get engaged in the arts at UNC, that maybe it inspired them to learn more, or reach out or find ways that they can get creative,” Wagner said.
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