Processing The Pandemic With Public Art: Community Center Sponsors ‘Reflection Exhibit’

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Arts , COVID-19

Shells can be decorated with a name, a painting or a poem. “You can do anything,” Carey said. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

HARWICH The past year has been an emotional one, with feelings of uncertainty and isolation tempered by opportunities for creativity, productivity and reflection. In a new public art project, the community center is encouraging people to get creative in expressing the town’s collective emotions from the past year.

“We wanted to do something where we could still be interacting with the members of our community,” community center Director Carolyn Carey said. The concept is simple and inexpensive: visitors to the community center can choose a seashell or piece of driftwood from a basket, then take it home and decorate it with paint, markers or any other art supplies, and then bring it back. Staff will carefully mount the tiny works of art on a fishing net outside the community center walkway.

The reflection exhibit isn’t strictly about the pandemic, Carey said. It provides a space for everyone’s experience of the last year and all the events it contained.

“Maybe you had a great year. Maybe you got married,” she said. Some of the submissions received so far seem to reflect the pandemic or individual experiences, and others are just simple expressions of mood or color. The activity itself can be therapeutic, invoking a visit to the beach – which Carey said was a common strategy for people looking to find peace during COVID-19.

“The beach is a reflective place. That’s where we were coming from,” she said.

The project reached out to some residents who couldn’t make it to the community center. Around 90 senior citizens received a shell and an instruction sheet as part of their regular meal delivery. Last week, a 90-year-old resident called Carey about the project.

“She said, I just wanted to thank you,” Carey said. She received not only a nice lunch but a project for the afternoon.

“She said, ‘It made me smile, and I haven’t smiled much.’”

Participants are asked to use the shells and items provided by the community center, which have pre-drilled holes so the items can eventually be mounted to the display. Carey said she didn’t want to inadvertently break someone’s creation while drilling a hole. Items can be picked up at the community center and will be added to the outdoor display, which will remain up through the month of May.