Window of Hope

Covid Time forced our BCL group to meet virtually three to four times each week. Needless to say, this wasn’t what we had planned. Our original vision was to spend April and May creating art for a community phenology clock in collaboration with Mary Lacy, Burlington Geographic, Burlington Wildways, and Burlington Generator…but like all plans this Spring, we had to be flexible. What resulted, however, was a true “Window of Hope.”

Throughout the Spring, art itself became an opportunity to record and document what was happening around us, in our rooms, our homes and our neighborhoods.  Mary Lacy was still on board to work with us, and she helped us reframe our project as ‘documentation art.’  We pitched the idea to the BCL4 students and the other faculty, and a plan emerged, BCL-style.  

In the early weeks of ideation, Mary presented examples of artists whose work expresses a recording of their personal experiences. We looked at examples of how other people around the world were compelled to document their lives during the current pandemic. We also reviewed historical sources from the 1918-19 influenza epidemic. With a new sense of purpose, a project was born.  

Early on, students met in small groups with Mary Lacy to share their art, and to begin to make meaning of their work. 

As the weeks progressed, our plan became clearer. Each BCL student and faculty member would document their experience in some way. Artistic abilities were not the focus; instead, everyone was invited to track their experience in journals, sketches, collages, photographs, musical recording. Any medium was welcome.  After about a month of creating and recording, we discussed how we could present our work to the world.  Lots of ideas were shared, over many conversations on the screen. In the end, we decided to design and publish a website, host a virtual exhibit/gallery event, craft a book, and document the art-making process through b-roll footage. In addition, students continuously reflected and analyzed the process and experience in writing.

Sharing art was a powerful way to continue to nurture community, even though we were physically separated.

I enjoy photography and video editing, so I decided that I should use those mediums. Every morning I would look out my front window. That window was like a portrait of the outside and seems to always be the same. I took a photo every day, and put it in a time lapse to show the outside world and how it changes. I learned that I am always moving so fast every day, and that I don’t often notice the small changes that happen.


When I started the frog garden, I didn’t see it as art…but when you push yourself to see the natural beauty in things, you start to see the art in nature. So what began as a feeble attempt to save a few frogs turned into a beautiful celebration of art in nature and life.


The completion of my project required a strong push from within. Although I was hesitant to approach strangers on the street, I eventually overcame that fear. Right now, our society is living in fear of what comes next. Conquering that fear is going to require a strong push from each and every one of us. Art can aid in that process by moving us to explore the world in new and different ways during this time of isolation. 


Sometimes life brings you gifts when you least expect it, and just at the right time in our process came Patricia Trafton, BHS graduate 2010, from Soapbox Arts.  Patricia and her partner Homer joined the team, quickly caught on to the BCL vibe, and guided us with their expertise in curating an art show — virtually. As plans for our culminating projects evolved, BCL4 students stepped up to the challenge, took on a variety of tasks, identified themes, and worked together to put an amazing virtual show, focusing on time, hope, nature, and place. After weeks of virtual meetings in student-led task groups, Patricia wove the art, b-roll, and narration into a beautiful and evocative 5-minute video.  Students created fliers to invite the community to the event, designed an art book, crafted a website complementing the video, and wrote scripts for the event’s student MCs — all virtually.  And with significant help from Shannon Walters, our incredible BHS librarian, students spent hours practicing the mechanics of Zoom Webinars — all to be able to virtually share ‘Window of Hope’ with the world.  

Partnering with a working artist and a gallery owner helped students feel like professionals–even if this was their first foray into the art world.

I really enjoyed doing the project I chose. I was able to learn so much more about myself and about the state I live in during such a difficult time. They were long days, but I enjoyed the sense of adventure. The art-making process is continuous. Even though I am “done,” I am not really done.


The best art in a crisis contains an element of catharsis; it expresses our emotions for us when we don’t know how to express them. My art piece has parts that are pretty, to make people happy, but there are also parts that express all the anxiety that everyone is feeling. I am proud to do my part to help our community thrive.


You need to go into a challenge like this with an open mindset so your craft can come out fifty times better than you imagined it would have been. Art is the coolest way to express emotion without using words. I strongly believe we need more art and we definitely need to give more credit to artists. It is not easy but it is so cool.


My art is about you. It can be whatever you think it is because I drew it for you. I expect you to make it better with your opinion. 

While we thought that the art itself was the project, it soon became clear that our event would require a performance. Augie and Kaltumo put in hours of time preparing–and it paid off. 

On May 27th, over 100 guests from around the world attended students’ virtual art exhibit. Our hosts, Augie Thompson and Kaltumo Ibrahim, introduced the project, and provided context for the final video project.  Mary fielded questions that students answered for over 30 minutes, after which those in attendance were able to explore students’ artwork through the “virtual gallery” website.

More than 110 people attended BCL students’ art opening. 
The art event highlighted visual art, music, and more.

This art project helped me realize that in order to get the best work out of myself, I have to give myself time and allow the process to come to me naturally. In order to thrive, I think we all need to know that it will not be a quick process. It will take time, but it will come in its own way. This art was very helpful for me during this time, it helped me feel more connected to people and helped me take a few hours to calm down and take time to reflect on this time. It could have been very easy to kind of disappear and not do anything during this pandemic, but having this art project helped me have something to do that I enjoyed and helped me feel like I was part of a group. 


I would say that my project kind of embodies hope. I think that it shows my recovery and perseverance to overcome an injury, and can be applied to the recovery that is taking place now, in which we need to persevere and keep going even if we don’t want to.


My art project shows what it means to thrive by showing what not thriving looks like. My drawings mostly took place during the worst part of the quarantine, so that probably explains why they’re mostly meaningless.  The power of this art is to show what it’s like to be mindlessly bored all day long. What do I think about when I’m staring at my ceiling? Lobster costumes, I guess. 


For those who are struggling during this time, art means so much. Our class creating various different kinds of art provided so much hope for our Burlington community, and that is why we need more art, especially during this time. Art inspires people and helps to evoke emotions, which is what we need to get through this difficult time period.


I find that our relationship with hope and fear is one that we usually don’t have the luxury to worry about. Now, while the days blur together, we are forced to shape our reality alone. Our sanity depends on which we entertain: the hope of how things will be better when this is all over, or the fear and anxiety of everything we’ve lost. The magnitude of these are different for everyone, but their existence is a collective experience.


Sometimes it’s hard to fully open your eyes. It could take luck, good timing, or someone else to help you find it. But when you do, I believe it will almost always help you thrive in some way or another. I say that you should find what’s important to you during these dark times, and if you can showcase that through art then it can be a vessel to express emotion.


My piece was a true representation of time and hope. Time never stops ticking and we live life based on a running clock. Right now, all of our emotions and thoughts are all being dedicated to hope, hope that someday soon this will all end and life can go back to how it was. 


For me, in order to thrive you need to take risks. You need to do things that you never thought would be possible, and you need to do things that make you uncomfortable, and this is the most uncomfortable thing I can think of.  The power that art has is actually unimaginable. The impact it has on people’s mind, body and soul is amazing… Art can really help people during this time to feel less lonely to feel more productive, to feel like they have a purpose in this world. I will forever believe we need more art. Art brings a divided world together. It’s a language we can all understand and appreciate. 


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