Today, thanks to the internet, we’re not so alone during our lives in lockdown. People all over the world are figuring out creative ways to use this time. They're hosting virtual parties, cooking meals together and posting videos on TikTok.
And, a number of international art projects are harnessing the internet's crowdsourcing power to curate art about life in quarantine. Many are inviting public participation in the work or finding new ways to bring art to people — and sharing messages of hope and solidarity or “stay home.”
Here are just a handful of those art projects, from the United States to the Netherlands to Spain:
In Southern California, curator Cassandra Coblentz at the Orange County Museum of Art wanted to document quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic with an online project.
She realized that many people are tired of looking at digital screens so the museum team commissioned sound artist Alan Nakagawa to create a collaborative sound collage titled, “Social Distance, Haiku, and You.”
In order to make it less daunting for people to participate, Nakagawa decided to use haikus, a Japanese form of poetry with 17 syllables within three lines.
“Haikus are fun because it’s less about creating a masterpiece poem. And it’s more about, ‘Yeah, I could do that, you know — three lines.’”
“Haikus are fun because it’s less about creating a masterpiece poem. And it’s more about, ‘Yeah, I could do that, you know — three lines,’” Nakagawa said.
The museum invited the public to submit haikus via voice memos.
“Originally, we were worried that we weren’t going to get that many, actually. We had no idea that we were going to get over 550 haikus,” Coblentz said.
“From all over the world!” Nakagawa said.
Here are some of the haikus they received:
A digital museum
Many visual artists are choosing Instagram as the platform to share their art. That’s where three creatives in Spain host the Covid Art Museum. Every day, they meet via WhatsApp to select images submitted by artists from around the world. The project is only a month old, but it has over 65,000 followers on Instagram.
Irene Llorca is one of the project’s founders. She’s an art director at an ad agency in Barcelona.
“We realized that many of our friends were sharing art about the pandemic. That’s when we decided to create a digital museum to collect all the amazing artwork that was being born.”
The Covid Art Museum “began during the first days of quarantine in Spain. We realized that many of our friends were sharing art about the pandemic. That’s when we decided to create a digital museum to collect all the amazing artwork that was being born,” Llorca said.
To encourage submissions, Llorca and her friends connected with ArteInformado, an Iberoamerican contemporary art market. So far, they’ve received nearly 5,000 submissions from 50 different countries. (Submit your own art to the museum here.)
One of Llorca’s favorites is a painting by Mauro C. Martinez of an American couple on vacation with tan lines on their faces outlining where masks would be.
It’s “the things we never thought of, you know, but probably what is going to happen this summer,” she said.
As a curator of @covidartmuseum, Llorca is able to spot worldwide trends in the art. There are toilet paper jokes before infection rates peak in a country. During the peak, the art is all about solidarity.
Stay home and enjoy these hopeful messages
In the Netherlands, another project aims to get art off the internet and onto people’s walls. In March, two graphic designers, Max Lennarts and Menno de Bruijn, created Stay-Sane-Stay-Safe.com at the suggestion of their friend who is a nurse at a hospital.
“He was asking if we had a nice poster which we can send to him with a nice uplifting message to help the people a bit,” De Bruijn said. “So, then Max thought, yeah, OK, but why only help one friend or one hospital?”
Lennarts and De Bruijn quickly built a website and put out a worldwide call for poster designs targeted at two different audiences: They aimed to send encouraging messages to medical workers and to ask everyone else to stay home. Several graphic design web magazines covered their launch.
As a result, artists in 81 countries have submitted more than 1,500 posters. One poster is an image of two hands wrapped in rubber gloves making a heart symbol.
🍒🍒 Times are tough, show some love. We need more posters for our medical staff and caretakers, so keep ‘em coming. In the meantime we’re partnering up with print parties to print a first batch of posters and send them to the first hospitals (in the Netherlands). Fuck yes! Feel free to do the same in your country
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Another neon-colored poster reads in bold letters, “We will get through this together.”
Today we’ve received 2500 posters all printed by our friends over at @drkkrijtielen . We’ve selected 10 different designs, which are yours and some of our own. Monday they will be shipped to 30 hospitals in the Netherlands. Big thanks to Drukkerij Tielen and @stroom_den_haag for helping us out by funding the shipment! Times are tough, show some love. @staysanestaysafe @studio_lennartsendebruijn @overdeschreef #staysanestaysafe #posters #print #help #typosters #graphicdesign #graphicindex #typography #illustration #staysafe #designfeed #curatedcontent #digitalarchive #behance #thebrandidentity #itsnicethat #eyeondesign
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Anyone can download and print out the posters for free. A printer in Utrecht made hundreds of posters for Dutch hospitals, which they say the staff loves.
“The nice thing about the project is that it’s such a shared crisis that everybody understands the message we want to share.”
“The nice thing about the project is that it’s such a shared crisis that everybody understands the message we want to share,” De Bruijn said.
(Submit your own poster design here.)
Dreaming of a just future
In the US, a project in Philadelphia called "Fill the Walls with Hope, Rage, Resources, and Dreams" is printing out crowdsourced posters for empty spaces left by closed businesses and schools. Mark Strandquist says he launched the project to help his neighbors dream of a just future.
Courtesy of the "Fill the Walls with Hope, Rage, Resources, and Dreams" project
Courtesy of the "Fill the Walls with Rage, Hope, Resources and Dreams" project
Strandquist and friends use wheat paste to post them around the city, including in and around all of Philadelphia’s free food distribution sites.
Meanwhile, in New York, artists are collaborating to make the most of the empty billboard space in Times Square.
We’re excited to announce the launch of a citywide public art campaign featuring artist-designed PSAs and messages of love, solidarity, and gratitude to New York City’s health care and essential workers. We’ve teamed up with Poster House, Print Magazine, and For Freedoms to turn the screens of Times Square, the digital billboards over Lincoln Tunnel, and nearly 1800 LinkNYC kiosks across the city into platforms of public service and appreciation. Messages from dozens of established and emerging designers and visual artists from around the world will be rolling out as stand united and resilient amidst this global crisis. Thank you @americaneagle, @morgan.stanely, 20 Times Square (@timessquareedition), @brandedcities, @nasdaq, @reuters, @linknycofficial, @silvercastmedia above Lincoln Tunnel for donating screen time. We ❤️ NY. 1. Together Apart by Debbie Millman 2. Love in the Time of Corona by Maira Kalman 3. Thank You Essential Workers by Gemma O'Brian 4. The Future is in Our Hands by Zipeng Zhu 5. 6 Feet is 6 Feet by Matt Dorfman 6. Call a Loved One by Pablo Delcan 7. New York Loves You by Edel Rodriguez #PSA #NYStrong #StaySafe #CombatCovid #SomeGoodNews
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Presenting Valor & Grace by Shepard Fairey! In honor of the frontline workers and everything they do, we have an exclusive piece by @obeygiant . Go to www.DearFrontline.com to use this art to send a message of thanks to frontline workers! #ThankTheFrontline #DearFrontline #ValorandGrace #ShepardFairey #obeygiant #art #InternationalWorkersDay
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Super Nurse on the streets of The Netherlands by @iamfake From the artist: "Super Nurse is a tribute to all healthcare professionals around the world. To encourage them in these challenging times, to lift their spirits and send them love and appreciation, when so much is expected of them and so many people depend on their work." Tag a healthcare worker below to show them some love 💎💎💎
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Ultimately, all of these projects address the shared experience of quarantine. That’s exactly what the haiku project wants to capture.
Nakagawa trained as a drummer and appreciates “the pocket,” or the space between beats, which is why he loves haikus.
“Haikus are amazing that way in that it just invites your experiences to fill in the blanks and the empty space.”
“Haikus are amazing that way in that it just invites your experiences to fill in the blanks and the empty space,” he said.
People often turn to art to document and make sense of hard times. And our collective quarantine has been unavoidably digital. It’s no wonder that we’re turning to the internet and art to make sense of and document this unprecedented moment in world history.