From college students to office workers to medical professionals, social isolation has taken its toll. Everyday tasks and line items like commuting to work, cafes, and walking to class are now nostalgic memories for many.
The need for consistent creative outlets and community has never been more crucial to the human experience. During times of significant change, artistic movements have been a pivotal source of imagination, innovation and community. Every pandemic throughout history has redefined the boundaries of artistic expression, such as Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron to employ storytelling during the 14th century’s Black Plague, and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway to embrace togetherness after surviving the 1918 flu; COVID-19 will likely do the same.
Despite our isolation, how do we collectively spark creativity in a time of fear and anxiety? What can we do to feel less disconnected from ourselves and others? How can we spread light during these dark times?
One solution lies in collective creativity.
To tackle these issues, graphic designer Steph Shotorbani has launched a new creativity experiment derived from her personal experiences. In 2018, Steph challenged herself to create a new piece every day in the form of a design diary. The process was to reflect and take inspiration from what she learned that day and translate those ideas into a visual form. By sharing those creations to her small creative community daily, she was able to create accountability and consistency.
A year later, Steph realized that this passion project had a tremendous impact on her happiness in life. Steph believes that the constant reflection and creation helped her look at life through a more artistic lens, sparking her creativity every day. However, the one thing missing was the magic of learning from others and connecting to something that was bigger than herself.
In 2019, Steph attended Erik Brandt’s artist talk at the University of Utah. Brandt, a leader in the design community, shared his own passion project. He calls it: Ficciones Typografika. In short, this project was about connecting designers around the world by asking for submissions which he would then print and wheatpaste to a mini billboard outside of his home in Minnesota. From Brandt’s story, Steph learned the importance of connecting as a community and how impactful that process can be.
Combining her learned love for constant creation with connection to other makers, Steph created a unifying space to celebrate and connect all types of creatives around the world. Thus, PROJECT apART came to life.
PROJECT apART launched April 15. The new community-engaged artistic initiative celebrates human resiliency through an online artistic community, with an emphasis on connecting with vulnerable and underserved populations. It is powered by the Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah where Steph is employed as Senior Graphic Designer. Artists from all backgrounds and mediums contribute to this movement, with prompts being posted on Wednesdays. After each week’s submissions, a new visual prompt is posted, along with the “apARTist” of the week. The first week saw 40 participants.
Categories include film, design, fine art, illustration, textiles, culinary, dance, performance, written works, music & sound, three-dimensional, photography, storytelling, experience art, technology, and children (0-14). From Lego enthusiasts to street performers, everyone is invited to take part in this experiment.
“We’re coming together and inspiring one another through creation, connection and collaboration,” Steph says. “Even during our collective isolation, through the power of creativity together to make something larger than ourselves, we can make social impact. Join us. Go create!”