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The Art of Socializing During a Quarantine – The Atlantic



Quino Al / Katie Martin / The Atlantic

Recently, several hundred thousand, if not millions, of Americans have started working remotely, at the behest of their employers and in the interest of limiting the spread of the coronavirus. And for the foreseeable future, a group much bigger than that will, in accordance with encouragements to practice social distancing, start socializing remotely as well.

Earlier this week, my colleague Kaitlyn Tiffany put together a primer on what social distancing means in practice, asking a panel of public-health experts to rate the danger of a range of social scenarios. Some of the experts said it was okay (if not ideal) to have small (and symptom-free) gatherings at home or visit a noncrowded bar or restaurant, but all of them called for caution and restraint. “People should be at home as much as possible,” one advised.

Thankfully, those who stay in have at their disposal a suite of communication technologies that people who lived through previous pandemics couldn’t have fathomed. I recently spoke with some researchers who study communication and social connectedness, asking them how they’d try to replicate the pleasures of socializing in the absence of actually meeting up with friends. Being cooped up at home will likely prompt feelings of loneliness and isolation no matter what, but the following strategies might make the experience of being stuck at home a bit less stifling.

People probably won’t have much trouble remembering to stay in touch with their best friends while stuck at home, but less-regular catchups—such as occasional lunches with co-workers or bumping into an acquaintance at a coffee shop—are more at risk of falling by the wayside, because they’re often impromptu. Melissa Mazmanian, an informatics professor at UC Irvine, told me that it might help to proactively schedule a videochat date that functions as a “low-level exchange of ‘What’s going on with you today?’” to compensate for these lost interactions.

Scheduling something that usually originates spontaneously can feel contrived, Mazmanian noted, but “you have to formalize it a little more, because we’re not going to run into each other.” It may be easy to default to eating lunch in front of the TV or computer, but shared meals can be an opportunity for connection. Recently, she and a colleague agreed that while they were working remotely, they’d set up a standing videochat lunch date, chatting and eating “together” in front of their laptops.

Similarly, Jeff Hancock, a communication professor at Stanford University, told me that even before the outbreak, he and a friend in another city often set up Skype calls to drink whiskey and catch up. “One of the reasons that we want to hang out with people often is to eat and drink together,” he told me, and people can simulate that at a distance with videochat. Moreover, Hancock said, “committing to a dinner or a lunch with somebody is a signal that ‘I care about this relationship’” and that they want more than just, say, an intermittent text-message thread that each party contributes to when he or she has the time. Plus, everyone has to eat, even our busiest friends.

In Mazmanian’s view, phone calls and videochatting are also well suited to promoting “deeper forms of human connection,” enabling heart-to-hearts even across distance; friends who live where you do are normally easier to keep up with, but during a near-quarantine, friends and family across the country (or world) are basically just as easy to stay in touch with as someone who lives a mile away. With that in mind, Mazmanian suggested “revisiting the people who you really care about and don’t have time to talk to very much,” now that people’s social calendars are sparse.

In planning your list of remote social engagements, note that having a range of different types of relationships can help people feel socially connected—Hancock described an “ecology” of friendships, including confidants, friends you get dinner or go to a movie with, and “friends that you can do nothing with.”

It’s not just the types of relationships you have that matter—it’s also the media you use to sustain them. Hancock told me that attention-heavy “synchronous” conversations (like those had in real time over the phone or videochat) can foster closeness, but so can “frequent, lightweight contact” (like sharing links or sending short messages). “The little pings matter,” he said.

Carving out big chunks of time for your loved ones is important, but so is integrating them into your day in smaller ways. One slightly unusual means of doing that: initiating a videochat with a friend or loved one and then leaving it running in the background for an hour or two as you go about your days. It sounds a little intrusive, but, as I wrote last year, many long-distance romantic couples do it, finding that it allows them to spend time together, chatting intermittently as they might if they lived in the same space.

Another more passive form of interaction is to watch a movie or TV show at the same time from afar—there are tools for syncing up Netflix across multiple computers and for streaming the same videos on different screens.

An important element of feeling socially connected is receiving support from others, or at least knowing that the support is there to call on if needed, according to Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University. She told me that research also indicates that offering support can be beneficial to the offerrer in addition to the offeree.

This support can take a variety of forms. It might be “tangible”—an offer to drop off some extra food at a friend’s house if needed. It might be “informational”—a response to a concerned friend’s advice-seeking about how to handle some aspect of life during a pandemic. Or it might be “emotional”—a check-in to see how a friend is weathering it all. “Even just perceiving that support is available, if needed, can be enough to dampen stress responses,” Holt-Lunstad said.

This suggestion may be a bit obvious, but with many workplaces and schools closed, the surest face-to-face socializing people will do is with those they share a home with. “This is a time when life is going to get simpler,” said Holt-Lunstad of her own household. “Now we have time to do some of the things that I think we don’t often have time for in our really hectic, busy schedules.”

Life under coronavirus is governed by uncertainty and worry, but in the moments when she is able to put those aside, Holt-Lunstad said she’ll be “trying to think of ways that we can really enjoy this time together rather than feeling distressed about it.” She anticipates playing games, camping, and going on walks, when she and her family are able to.

Though it’s not an element of social connectedness, per se, one pleasure of getting out of the house is the change of scenery. For instance, with the proper social distancing, going on a walk can provide a reprieve from looking at the same walls and furniture. It can also enable spontaneous encounters with strangers and re-create some semblance of life without coronavirus. “You may see someone in the distance, but you can still smile and wave and say hello … whether that’s your neighbor that you’ve known for 10 years, or whether it’s a complete stranger,” Holt-Lunstad said. Additionally, you could schedule a phone call with a friend for a time when you both can go on a walk. It won’t be like having them alongside you, but at least you’ll each be getting out of the house.

Perhaps the goal of varying your environment can even be achieved in the home, to a degree. “This sounds really trite, but I actually don’t think it is: Play with the lighting in your house” when you videochat, Mazmanian suggested. “Think of your video screen as a stage where you change the background for those you’re talking to and yourself.” It sounds a bit forced and won’t be for everyone, but maybe a videochat coffee date with a friend would be made more enjoyable if the setting resembled the coffee shop where you usually meet, with its dimmed lights and candles.

Similarly, Hancock noted that some people who work from home put on a different outfit when they start to work, in order to help them differentiate between work life and home life. Maybe remote socializers could take inspiration from that, and dress up for that videochat coffee date as they would if they were actually going out. (It probably sounds a bit desperate when described like that, but little things like this could be genuinely fun and spirit-lifting.)

“I think it’s important to not forget that human relationships are not always pleasant,” Mazmanian said. “Having a break from them can be good.” Obviously, this is nicer for people when they get to do it on their own terms, but it’s worth bearing in mind that when you’re being deprived of opportunities to go out and socialize, you might be more likely to remember the good parts than the bad. (To that end, I’d add that one perk of socializing remotely is that when you’re done with your phone call or videochat session, you’re already home—no need for a possibly drunken late-night commute from a bar or friend’s house.)

So go forth (or rather, stay in) and socialize, but also consider using your newfound time at home to do things you enjoy but can’t usually squeeze into your day. “Hunker down and do something cool with your hands and with your mind, like a science project, or knit a sweater,” Mazmanian said. “[You can] try to find a place of enjoyment in those more solitary activities.”

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Joe Pinsker is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers families and education.

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Sarnia area artist shares art kits to help youth, children, parents during pandemic – Anishinabek News



Lambton County artist Suellen Evoy-Oozeer delivers an art kit to a family in Aamjiwnaang First Nation to help young artists during the COVID 19 pandemic.

By Colin Graf

AAMJIWNAANG FIRST NATION— An artist from the Sarnia area is sharing art kits to help youth, children, and parents remaining indoors during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.  After her series of workshops on intuitive spirit painting were cancelled in locations nearby such as Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point (KSP) First Nation, Suellen Evoy-Oozeer decided to reach out to her students and distribute the art kits she had been storing for those events.

“I want to give them something to do and some way to connect with each other,” she said, so Evoy-Oozeer decided to offer to drop off the kits where they were wanted and to open up a Facebook page, “Me, You, & Us Youth”.

KSP youth were supposed to exhibit their art in the town of Port Franks, on Lake Huron, in May, but that exhibit has been moved to September. She hopes Aamjiwnaang youth may still be able to exhibit their work during the annual First Nations art show at the Lawrence House gallery in Sarnia in June if circumstances allow.

Evoy-Oozeer has now offered the 30 kits in her garage to anyone who wants them from the two First Nations, though she may not be able to deliver to KSP because of restrictions placed on visiting the community.

She is observing protocols for sanitation and distancing in the delivery of the kits. The art supplies have been in her garage for over a month, so she feels there is no chance of infection. She wears gloves for the deliveries and maintains no contact with the people receiving the kits.

“I will drop them off on their doorstep, go back to my car and text them,” the artist says.

The kits include paints, brushes, a large canvas, a 9 x 12 sketch pad and some drawing tools, either pencils or a fine-tipped pen.

“It’s not a lot but it’s enough to keep them busy for a bit,” she says.

She’s also including a copy of the book from the 2019 exhibition she helped create in the Kettle Point area called, Me, You, and Us, which includes ideas for creating what Evoy-Oozeer calls “spirit portraits” showing different aspects of the artists’ inner lives. So far, she has delivered kits to 10 different families.

Samantha Jacobs of Aamjiwnaang got one of those kits and finds creating art is helping her stay focussed, pass the time and keeps her mind busy during isolation. She had completed two out of three sessions Evoy-Oozeer was conducting at the community centre prior to the abrupt closure. Jacobs had hoped to complete a papier-mâché artwork that would resemble herself, but would open up to reveal aspects of herself.  She had the newspaper and the glue ready but was unable to go ahead. Now she is using the paints and chalk pastels in the kit a couple of hours every night. Her favourite so far is one with a younger and an older turtle swimming. Jacobs is the young turtle while the older turtle represents her uncle Errnol Gray, or “Uncle Turtle” as she called him before he passed in 2018. Gray was an Aamjiwnaang councillor for 42 years, and Jacobs remembers him fondly.

Evoy-Oozeer’s original Me, You, and Us project featured 27 spirit portraits she painted of KSP members.  The exhibition was first shown at a London, Ont. gallery, followed by a two-week stay at the Lambton Heritage Museum, between KSP and the town of Grand Bend, with further stops in Windsor and the Ottawa area.

The portraits were part of a wider effort to connect the First Nations people with the settler community in Lambton County, along the south shore of Lake Huron. Evoy-Oozeer and her friend Susan Angela Bressette held workshops for people from both communities to learn intuitive painting techniques and get to know each other.

The workshops last year were a catalyst for understanding and change in the relationship between the First Nation and surrounding community, Bressette told Anishinabek News at the time.

“If you could see the healing that came from our little art class. There’s something that came from our classes that one friend said I should just call magic,” she recalled. “We don’t have an explanation for what happened there, but a lot of people found the freedom to talk about things in their lives like residential schools.”

Art created by the workshop participants also made up part of the 2019 exhibit.

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Bringing art from the inside outside – GuelphToday



Being under quarantine has given us all a small taste of what incarceration feels like and social media is flooded with posts from people using art to share their experiences and perspectives about being in isolation.

But Garry Glowacki’s art collection provides a glimpse from the inside most of us will never see.

“I have talked to a couple different prisoners and described this as a different kind of segregation,” said Glowacki.

When GuelphToday first met Glowacki last November when he was preparing for an art exhibit at HOPE House featuring works by prisoners called Art Inside Out: From the Hearts and Souls of Men and Women Imprisoned.

The exhibition showcased works he has collected over more than 25 years as a restorative justice advocate and executive director of the Bridge Prison Ministry.

Glowacki has been watching the public’s response to the pandemic and selected a few pieces from his collection to display in front of his home on Metcalfe Street.

“I was getting discouraged watching people walk by with their hands in their pockets and their heads down some, not even saying hello,” he said. “I thought, you know what? I don’t want that fear to continue so I thought I would try to lighten up their walk. Apparently, it has worked. A lot of people have stopped by and taken pictures.”

Glowacki greets curious pedestrians from a safe distance, stepping back if they want to get a closer look at the works.

“It is prison art so, it is kind of out there,” he said pointing to a piece by Kingston Penitentiary inmate Brian Martland that shows a section of a locked prison cell door. “That is his view from his maximum-security jail cell where he spends 23 and a half hours a day, everyday. He painted it on a bed sheet because that’s all he had. He had some paints, but he couldn’t get anything beyond that.”

Among the more controversial pieces in his collection are by artist Peter Collins, who was serving a life sentence for killing Nepean Police Const. David Utman during a bank-robbery in 1983.

“Peter Collins died in prison in Millhaven in the 32nd year of a life sentence,” said Glowacki. “He was 17 when he killed a cop. He was a prison advocate, but they wouldn’t even let him out to go to hospice. He died alone in prison.”

The therapeutic value of creating art, especially under extreme conditions, is well documented and Glowacki spent decades promoting prison art programs and their rehabilitative benefits.

“My ministry was about reintegrating men back into the community,” he said. “That’s what I did and we ended up being very successful. It got national attention. It got lots of people jobs. Many, many people that a lot of people had given up on are doing okay.”

Glowacki retired in 2018 but he continues to advocate for prisoners and celebrate the redemptive qualities of artistic expression.

“Art Inside Out is the group I am trying to get together promoting this prison art,” he said. “I retired and went back to University of Guelph to study criminology so, I am hoping they get a little more tuned in to this too because it is an effective presentation.”

He believes that showing the art influences public perception in a positive way and said that people are often surprised to see how senstive and talented prison artists can be.

“I am hoping it is provocative,” he said. “I am hoping it provokes people to think. They have talent. They have feelings. They do.”

He is interested in hearing people’s opinions about the work and for a while he left a pen and a pad of paper for people to leave their remarks. He stopped that after a woman raised concerns about the pen and paper getting contaminated by someone carrying the virus.

He said he rarely gets negative responses from people when he exhibits the collection.

“What are you going to do,” he asked? “Are you going to tell me that you don’t like them? That’s fair or you can tell me you’re afraid of them. That’s fair too but they are still our brothers and sisters and you know what? They are getting out.”

For the time being, however, he has to limit any face-to-face discussions and keeps his distance when people pause to look at the exhibit in his yard.

“I don’t come out here too much,” he said. “Once in a while I will come out and say hi, thanks for coming.”

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Vancouver Island Arts Councils get big grant for investment in digital skills – Ladysmith Chronicle



The Ladysmith Art Council, along with the Comox Valley Arts Council, Cowichan Valley Arts Council, Saltspring Island Arts, and Hornby Island Art Council, received a $212,000 grant for the development of a digital innovation group for Vancouver Island artists.

“We’re doing a baseline survey of what art councils are doing at the moment, and that will lead us to doing a research piece of what we can do better with technology, how technology will help us, and what the future of art councils will look like,” LAC member, Ora Steyn said.

Steyn said that art councils operate for the most part on small budgets and are run primarily by volunteers. The implementation of technology to be shared among all Vancouver Island art councils could have significant long term benefits for their operation models.

“How do we promote ourselves? How do we market ourselves? How do we deliver classes? Is there a way of doing it online, and what is the best way?” Steyn said. “Once we know what we need to proceed we will implement the solutions we find and do the training.”

In the summer 2019, the LAC held an online webcast featuring Terry O’Reilly, host of Under the Influence on CBC to learn more about how to market Vancouver Island’s artists. That event was funded by the Canada Council for Arts Digital Strategy Fund, and set the idea of the Digital innovation group in motion. Over 300 artists joined the live webcast.

The guiding vision is to establish Vancouver Island as an arts powerhouse because of the large amount of artists who live on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

“People here have the passion for what they’re doing. One Canada Council saw there was a real need, and people who wanted to address the need, we were successful with our grant,” Steyn said.

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