Creativity in the Time of Covid-19

August 25-September 30, 2023

Mellon Foundation Just Futures Initiative Grant, 2020-2023

Since the first, shocking weeks of lockdown in the United States in March 2020, the paradoxes of living through an unprecedented historical moment were made acutely palpable. Although we quickly adapted to a new set of terms — social distancing, zoom links, mask and proof of vaccination required — in the conversations since, we still struggle to find what language could adequately depict what we all endured. For though we went through it collectively, the pandemic was also a time of unprecedented isolation. It was a time when struggles, trauma, and grief were highly individualized, especially for those of marginalized communities, who are often left out of the dominant narratives — despite being the hardest hit by the pandemic and its corresponding crises.  In this exhibition, we seek to amplify the voices of these individuals.  

Creativity in the Time of Covid-19 offers a way to newly understand the role of creativity in responding to pandemic and crisis by looking to what we made, to the work created at home — often alone — that nevertheless reflects the larger collective experience of this moment in history. “Creativity in the Time of Covid-19” showcases works by both professional artists and first-time makers who are either from Buffalo, LGBTQ and/or BIPOC backgrounds. Although each work was produced during a time of unprecedented isolation, this exhibition offers a way to see how art was used to cope, to understand, to forge new connections or hold onto existing ones, and to care for ourselves and our communities. Together, these pieces speak to themes of self-recognition and transformation, to new modes of community building and forging new connections, to shifting experiences of temporality, to ways of advocating for mental health and our communities.. These works help account for the specific local histories and conditions that contributed to lockdown isolation, as well as celebrate the creative practices marginalized communities used to survive the pandemic and care for each other. 

This exhibition was organized by Amatryx Gaming Lab & Studio (AGLS), a lab in the Department of Media Study at University at Buffalo dedicated to gaming, virtual reality, social justice, and community storytelling projects. It is part of a larger, three-year art and research project, Creativity in the Time of Covid-19, that examines how people ranging from professional artists to first-time creatives used creativity during the Covid-19 pandemic. This project is made possible by a Just Futures Initiative grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and was started at the Digital Humanities & Literary Cognition (DHLC) out of Michigan State University, in partnership with Washington University in St. Louis and the United States Naval Academy. We are grateful to DisArt, for their help in putting together this space, and to the invaluable guidance and resources provided by our partners at Buffalo Arts Studio, Buffalo Game Space, and Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Arts Center. Buffalo Arts Studio receives exhibition support from The Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation, Community Foundation, Erie County Cultural Funds, John R. Oishei Foundation, M&T Bank, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, and the New York State Council for the Arts.

In our role as collaborators with MSU over the past few years, our lab members have worked on:

  • Designing and distributing a survey to collect work done during the pandemic
  • Reviewing responses and creative work submitted by artists
  • Making connections with community partners in Buffalo
  • Planning our satellite exhibition, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ artists

Videos of opening and closing talks:

Exhibition Opening at Buffalo Arts Studio, talks by Shirley Verrico (BAS), Cody Mejeur (Amatryx), Morgan Sammut (Amatryx), Famous Clark (Amatryx), and Natalie Phillips (Michigan State):

Exhibition Closing at Buffalo Arts Studio, talks by Tina Rivers Ryan (Albright Knox), Cody Mejeur (Amatryx), Ekrem Serder (Squeaky Wheel), and Shirley Verrico (BAS):