Everyone has their own story about how they experienced the loss, sadness, anxiety and unrest over the past year. Living on a barrier island outside of Charleston, SC, I wondered how I could help others cope with grief and loneliness while experiencing so much isolation and sorrow myself. I had a strong calling to find a way to offer some form of Hope and Healing to others, no matter how small it was.
Determined to discover how I could make a difference, I turned to my own method of coping. As an artist, creativity has always been a way to process things and find positivity.
On a whim, I imagined a large art project to foster community and encourage hope and healing and I made it happen! I was able to recruit 18 diverse artists from 8 different states representing both coasts thanks to determination, social media and a lot of emails asking for help. The men and women who participated were extremely excited to offer their creative gifts to help. My hope was that through working on the project, each artist would find joy and our collective joys would provide comfort and peace to a broader audience.
Coordinating this collaboration from afar posed a few challenges. At the start of the project, the only abundant art supplies I had to mail each participant were cardboard pieces from recycled shipping boxes I had accumulated. Because much of my own art is created with repurposed items, this was a perfect medium for the Together While Apart Project because I was able to incorporate sustainability. Each artist received several 6” x 6” squares of cut cardboard to decorate anyway they desired.
After many months of long distant creating and communication among the group, this amazing piece is finished. Because we were unwilling to just sit by, the Together While Apart artists had a strong desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves . This amazing artwork is evidence that change can happen with just a tiny spark of an idea.
After the artwork travelled on a 10 month exhibition throughout the Southeast, it was permanently installed at The University of Virginia Medical Center in June 2022. As it traveled around, it inspired hope, optimism, strength and community; all the emotions we felt in working together on this collaboration. Despite the chaos and division in our world, there are still kind and compassionate people out there who want to be a part of the solution. This is evident in the 19 artists who joined me for this project, who had no other goal than wanting to heal our communities.
The Together While Apart Artwork is part of The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History's "Stories of 2020" online exhibit. It has also been featured by The South Carolina Commission for the Arts, South Carolina ETV, The Post and Courier Newspaper and What Women Create Magazine, Winter 2021 Edition.
This piece is dedicated to all the front line and healthcare workers across the country who showed up for work each day despite the uncertainty of the pandemic. They are true heroes and we salute them.
Katie Couric included The Together While Apart Project in her top ten ways to make a fresh start in 2023. What a huge honor it is to receive this type of recognition.
❤️ Deane Bowers