Nancy Wynn Curated COVID-19 Art Exhibit

The need to make artwork and share it with others has long been a driving force for Associate Professor Nancy Wynn, MFA. She first shared her photographs documenting ballet classes over thirty years ago. Recently, she continued that tradition with new work she exhibited in the Clare Gallery, at the St. Patrick-St. Anthony Franciscan Center for Urban Ministry in Hartford, CT.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s been a crazy time for me. I’ve had no time to make work, or do anything creative. My time and energy have been laser-focused on helping others. I took care of my health by breathing, walking and doing yoga, but that was it. There just wasn’t any time for anything else. During the winter break of 2022, however, I challenged myself to create several new pieces for an exhibit, called Creativity in the Time of Covid.” — Professor Nancy Wynn

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Professor Wynn helped establish the Clare Gallery close to twenty years ago and still serves as Chair of its ministry committee. The Gallery is a not-for-profit, professional exhibition gallery located in a contemporary Roman Catholic urban center. Its mission is to promote the arts and feature exhibits that educate and inform. Work shown in the Clare Gallery focuses on world religions, interfaith themes and social justice themes, either on a global or a local level. Since a wide variety of people pass through the Gallery, it helps bring art to those that might not otherwise visit a gallery or museum.

There is an educational component to every exhibit at the Clare Gallery. Artists can lecture on their work, join a panel discussion and/or facilitate a workshop. Over the years, the Gallery has featured a variety of activities: participating in global Slow Art Day; a demonstration of 19th Century “shape singing”; panel discussions intersecting Haitian spirituality; round-table discussions in partnership with local Islamic organizations; talks on hospice care or reflective meditation art processes; celebrations of refugee populations and their craftsmanship; and many other programs.

For Creativity in the Time of Covid, Professor Wynn worked with her committee to design an exhibition that targeted how creativity and reflective thought inspired art-making during the pandemic. The call for submissions was offered to the parish community and beyond. Besides chairing the committee, Professor Wynn produced two pieces for the exhibit:

“With this new work, I thought about how I was feeling at the beginning of the pandemic, during the middle and now, hopefully, towards the end of it,” Wynn said. “My emotions have shifted for a variety of reasons. The work exhibits multiple layers of meaning, as well as allowing viewers to bring their own thoughts and emotions to it.”

In addition to organizing the submissions and curating the exhibit, Professor Wynn facilitated two virtual roundtable discussions, during which members of the public could talk with the artists about their work. Artists were asked: What has the pandemic experience offered you … time … learning … creativity … reflection … relationships? What has the pandemic experience taken from you? Did your expression of spirituality change? Their thoughts, with their accompanying label text, were all viewable in the gallery. 

“The exhibition is our visual interpretation, but the discussion was an important part of the exhibition, too,” Wynne said. “Sharing, listening and learning add to the reflective part of going through a tough period of time. We can bring compassion and joy by being there for each other, however, that is translated.”

The exhibition ended on the last day of February and provided a much-needed outlet for artists to process what was happening around them. The dynamic and reflective virtual discussions included both participating artists and viewers of the work utilizing large-group and breakout room spaces. Although the exhibition has ended, the conversations continue.

The Clare Gallery will mark its 20th anniversary in 2023. Professor Wynn plans to continue working with the Gallery, sharing, making art and listening to how others express their creativity.

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