Viral Imaginations in Pennsylvania

You may remember that last year I submitted a painting to the virtual exhibit sponsored by Penn State, called Viral Imaginations: Covid 19. This exhibit was put together by a collaborating group at the university, involving medical, liberal arts, and ethics departments, and administrators, educators, and students.

The purpose of the exhibit was to

  • give Pennsylvanians a place to speak about the pandemic and its effects on them personally
  • create an archive of the times
  • provide materials for others to use in various ways for now and into the future, such as lessons and research
  • to create a place for people to go and feel the companionship of others as we all work our way through the pandemic

Last night my husband and I attended the Zoom reception for artists.

I didn’t know what to expect, having never attended a Zoom artist reception. After a little bit of coaxing the Zoom entry process to let us in, we arrived and listened to an overview of the project. I had not comprehended the scope of the effort or how much the archive/exhibit is already in use by teachers and researchers, for instance.

We (virtually) met the persons responsible for putting the site together. Then we listened to poetry from the site read to us as we looked at images from the visual art. Interspersed among the readings were short sessions devoted to the themes the curators found that repeated in the exhibit. Leter we saw a review of all the visual art on the site.

It was very moving. The poems brought back memories from the early days of the pandemic, often upsetting ones. I was reminded how terrified I was about grocery shopping, for instance, while listening to a poem on that subject.

My painting was called “I Hope”. Here it is:

I was surprised and thrilled to learn that it was included as part of a school lesson plan based on a pandemic theme, Cartography. I had no idea this had happened until my painting and name appeared on the screen! Look here to see the lesson plan – it relates to the home and its place in the world during the pandemic and is aimed at grades K-6.

I am honored and humbled that my artwork could maybe be of some benefit, especially to kids. And this morning I am still feeling a sense of – calmness and gratitude, maybe? – that this event unexpectedly brought to me.

There is much focus, rightly so, on all the losses and griefs of this time, and the exhibit does not shy away from them – instead it faces them.

But the fact there is this exhibit, that there will be an archive and our thoughts and feelings remembered, that it is important to try to make sense of what has happened, and that people are creating art and writing even in these times – all of this made me feel hope.

Even though the pandemic is not over, as was mentioned several times in the presentations, I came away feeling hope. A year later I still hope.


Thank you to Penn State and all who have worked on this archive.

Here is the link to my painting on its page at the site.

Here is a link to my post on the exhibit submission from 2020.

If you live or work in Pennsylvania, you can still submit your art or writings related to the pandemic to Viral Imaginations. They will be accepting submissions at least until the end of the year.

15 thoughts on “Viral Imaginations in Pennsylvania

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. It came along at a bad time and made me feel better, to do the painting and then to find a place where it could fit in, and now a year or so later, here it is again helping out. Art does a lot of work that way, all right.

  1. agnesashe

    That is all so interesting and the time and effort spent to curate a zoom exhibition is surprising. So pleased it worked out and was successful for those involved. How delighted you must have been for such a positive outcome and your art being used for teaching. It seems to have been all about making a positive contribution from such a negative year. Congratulations to you and all the other artists and poets.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I sort of stumbled into this exhibit and I am glad I did, because it has made a difference to me in this lost year that makes it not so lost.

  2. Diane

    What a nice story. This sounds like people really knew what they wanted to accomplish, and did so. I am glad you took part in it as well as the reception.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Yes, I had the impression it was well thought out too, and I hadn’t realized all the goals they had for it, that they figured all this out pretty much just as the pandemic was getting started. Very visionary, almost, I thought.

  3. Laura (PA Pict)

    I enjoyed viewing the exhibits a lot. It was so interesting to see what the different artists chose to focus on. I found myself wondering whether they would choose the same subject over a year into the pandemic. I also really enjoyed seeing the variety of styles and media and loved that there was one piece that was made from potatoes and coffee. Creative people can be so innovative.

    I really love your piece and I definitely think it speaks to the idea of home as a comforting shelter and also of hope for the future. I am so thrilled for you that it is part of a lesson plan. Wouldn’t it be cool to see the artwork the students produce in response to the lesson?

    Congratulations on being part of such a fantastic project and contributing to its success.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I have thought the same, are submissions from now different than earlier, of course, but in what way? I also have wondered what kids would do with the lesson plan that my piece is part of. I would like to see any artworks very much. Who knows? Maybe it will happen! The thought of all of this happening with my art has really cheered me up.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I was really happy to be part of this exhibit and even more so now that I understand how much has gone into it, and how its reach might extend.

      1. memadtwo

        People are doing good things all the time. We need to look at those things, not just the bad ones. Looking at community gardens for my earth day post really brought that home to me. We should not just take them for granted.

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