By Deane V. Bowers
Deane V. Bowers, deanevbowersart.com, is a self-described self-taught artist who lives in Seabrook Island, South Carolina. She is driven by a desire, “to be a responsible Environmental Steward in every aspect of my life. As an artist, whenever possible I always use reclaimed, recycled, repurposed and Eco Friendly materials.” Her purpose is to create art “that will be a tiny spark towards making the world a more loving, gentler, kinder place.” During the pandemic she felt the need to reach out to others and bring positivity. In this article Deane tells us what she did and about how artists transformed cardboard into hope and healing in the “Together While Apart Project”. We are delighted to add Deane to our “World Changers” series and also our “Artists Stories” series.
Everyone has their own story about how they experienced the loss, sadness, anxiety and unrest during the pandemic. Living on a barrier island outside of Charleston, SC, I wondered how I could help others cope with the grief and loneliness while experiencing so much isolation and sorrow myself. I had a strong calling to find a way to offer some form of Hope and Healing to others, no matter how small it was.
Unwilling to sit on the sidelines and watch the immense suffering caused by Covid, widespread racial injustices and community unrest, I wanted to find a way to bring people together and put the “social” back into social media. I thought that if I could unite a small group of people to be Hope Ambassadors, even people physically separated, we could work towards creating something bigger than ourselves. Collectively we might find joy, fellowship, and comfort and that somehow we could use our gifts to make a difference. I wanted to be part of the solution, to offer something positive, happy and bright to our hurting world.
I imagined a large art project to foster community and encourage Hope and Healing.
Determined to discover how I could do this, I turned to my own method of coping. As an artist, creativity has always been a way to process things and find positivity in life. I had recently read a blog about how a company created a giant quilt project to bring their employees together; an updated version of the old quilting circles. I wondered how I could create a similar collaboration based on the concept of community and put my own unique spin on it.
So on a whim, I imagined a large art project to foster community and encourage Hope and Healing. I was able to recruit 18 diverse artists from 8 different states thanks to social media. These men and women represented both coasts and were extremely excited to get involved and use their creative talents to help. My goal was that through working on the project, each artist would find joy and our collective joys would multiply and provide comfort to a broader audience.
Coordinating this collaboration from afar posed a few challenges. At the start of the project, the only abundant art supplies I had to send each participant were cardboard pieces from recycled shipping boxes I had accumulated. Because much of my own art is created with repurposed items, this was a perfect theme for the “Together While Apart Project”. Each artist received several 6” x 6” squares of cut cardboard to decorate anyway they desired. It is proof that you don’t have to have fancy art supplies in order to make art.
There was no right or wrong way to decorate each square. My only request was that each participant’s squares reflect their emotions at the time; any significant feelings brought forth by this moment in history. My hope was that through the creative process, each artist would find a sense of comfort, peace and community.
After many months of long distant creativity and communication among the artists, this amazing piece is finished. Because we were unwilling to just sit by, the Together While Apart artists had a strong desire to be apart of something bigger than ourselves. This amazing artwork is evidence that change can happen with just a tiny spark of an idea.
There are always kind hearted souls working on bringing Hope and Healing to others.
I was so grateful that what started as a small thought, blossomed into such a creative endeavor, uniting so many people. At the beginning of this project, I had no clear vision of what the final piece would look like. However, I knew the world needed to see this group’s creative gifts. I also knew that the participants needed to share these gifts in order to process the current situation our world was in. I can say with certainty that I am amazed at the outcome. This collaboration tells an inspirational story of resiliency, connection and purpose during a pandemic that none of us could have imagined a few years ago.
And now, it is time for this special piece of art to find its home. The recipient is yet to be determined, but it will be a non profit or medical facility whose mission resonates with the project. My wish is that wherever it is displayed, that it inspires love, warmth, empowerment, and joy – the emotions we all felt while working on it.
I hope that when other people see it, they remember that our collective strength comes when we show love for one another. That when we connect with one another, we can work together for the common good.
And that despite the utter chaos and sadness in our world, there are always kind hearted souls working on bringing Hope and Healing to others. This is evident in the 19 artists who came together for this project, who had no other goal then wanting to heal our communities.
Visit Deane’s website deanevbowersart.com
Read Deane’s article on the National Museum of American History website americanhistory.si.edu/stories-of-2020/story
Join Deane on Instagram Instagram.com/DeaneVBowersArt