BRIGHAM CITY — Ready to start making history?
The Brigham City Museum of Art & History has announced plans to build a collection of student artwork dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic. The museum is inviting all students in the state — “from pre-K to post-grad,” says museum director Alana Blumenthal — to create art that expresses what the students and their community are feeling right now.
“This is for everybody,” Blumenthal said. “Everybody has a unique story to tell about this.”
The museum is calling it the “Make History” project.
The purpose of the project is two-fold, according to Blumenthal. First, it allows students experiencing the current pandemic an outlet to express their feelings; and second, it will provide future generations a better understand of what life was like when the world came to a screeching halt due to COVID-19.
“We want to meet the audience where they are, and we feel the core to our mission is collecting things that are historic,” Blumenthal told the Standard-Examiner. “We thought this would be a great time to reach out to students at any grade level to show us — and more importantly, show future generations — what this is like, in whatever way your creativity inspires you to do it.”
The sky’s the limit in terms of the medium of choice, according to Blumenthal. Paintings, drawings, essays, poetry, fiber art, music — just about anything a student can come up with is fair game.
She hopes all students will take the opportunity to participate in the project, even if they don’t think of themselves as artistic.
“Some are photographers, some are poets, some are none of the above — they just have a lot of time on their hands,” Blumenthal said. “And yes, some see themselves as artists, but most don’t.”
Holly Conger is the art specialist at The Center for Creativity, Innovation and Discovery in Providence, just over the mountain from Brigham City. Conger says students at the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter school will have the option to participate in “Make History” as one of their school art project choices.
“I think it’s awesome,” Conger said. “I think art in general can be such a great outlet. Everything has been kind of turned upside-down, and some kids might find it difficult to process everything that’s happening. Art can be a great outlet for expression when words don’t seem to be enough.”
For her students at CCID, Conger said she’ll be putting a bit of her own spin on the “Make History” project. She points to a well-known quote from the creator of the long-running children’s television show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Fred Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Conger hopes her students’ art will focus on the helping and healing aspects of the current crisis.
“I want to encourage our students to create art that depicts the positive things they see in the community right now,” she said. “Our kids are young, and some of them might feel scared. But there’s so much positive going on, and I want them to see the positive in something like this.”
Blumenthal said the idea for the “Make History” exhibit came about fairly quickly after everything started shutting down. She said the reality is that parents across the country have suddenly found themselves home-schooling their children.
“My sister has an 8- and 6-year-old, and she’s been with them for three weeks now,” Blumenthal said. “I just wondered, ‘How do they fill that time?’”
Museum officials hope their call for entries will help parents-turned-teachers find worthwhile art projects for their students.
Although Blumenthal says they’re encouraging students to begin working on their art now, they won’t begin accepting contributions until after coronavirus restrictions are lifted and the museum reopens. Once it does, the museum will curate an exhibition of works from those entries, and some of the works may be accessioned into the permanent collection, according to Blumenthal.
Students are encouraged to watch the museum’s social media sites for when it does finally reopen. In the meantime, for those not wanting to wait to share their masterpieces, Blumenthal encourages students to post their works to social media, using the hashtags #MakeHistory and #MakeHistoryUtah.
Blumenthal said the “Make History” project is part of a larger attempt by Brigham City’s Community Activities and Services Department to help make the world a little less frightening. Another recent project is the city’s Teddy Bear Hunt. Residents were invited to place a teddy bear in a window of their home, then send their address to the city. The city compiled a list of addresses available to parents, allowing them to take their young children for a drive and let them “hunt” for teddy bears.
“It was hugely popular,” Blumenthal said. “The city eventually had to ask people to stop sending their addresses because they just couldn’t keep up. There are teddy bears everywhere here.”
Blumenthal said it’s important for people to “understand and know that it’s OK that this is a strange and ultimately historic moment we’re living through.” She says the “Make History” project offers a way for students to creatively express their feelings at this “eerie” time.
“And when the museum reopens, we hope people will want to come in and see what these students have to say,” Blumenthal said.