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Art can be a healing tool to combat pandemic burnout

Bringing the community together

For at least 10 years, the Downtown Ithaca Alliance (DIA) has put on Gallery Night on the first Friday of every month. The event, presented by Tompkins Trust Company, is a walkable tour of art openings and cultural events in and around downtown Ithaca. When it was clear that in-person gallery viewings were unsafe due to the pandemic, the event shifted online.

April’s Gallery Night celebrated the beauty and growth that spring invites. The event hosted in-person and online galleries.

DIA office and finance director Mercedes Redmon finds that the digital tours have expanded their opportunities and outreach across the Ithaca community.

“I don’t see us getting rid of our online component. I think that’s just going to be a factor of gallery night now which gets more people able to view the art,” Redmon said.

Establishments including the State of the Art Gallery, Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA) and the Ithaca Marriott Downtown on the Commons, participated in last month’s Gallery Night, on April 2, both in-person and virtually.

Artist Terrance Vann displayed his art at CSMA and did a live paint through the windows to keep safe distance between himself and the audience. He also held a virtual gallery for those who could not make it in person.

“We had to do it inside, and it actually kind of made it fun because people could look through the window and see it kind of build and happen,” Vann said. “It was a nice little crowd. I’m surprised actually because it was a cold day, so I was like ‘oh nobody’s going to show up,’ but it ended up being tight.”

Pandemic burnout

After the US shifted to mostly online operations, a third of U.S. employees started “living at work.” The result is “pandemic burnout,” a state of exhaustion. Data courtesy of:

Quarantine proved to be a difficult time for Vann as he struggled to find motivation to continue creating. He’s not alone in this feeling — pandemic burnout has become a popularized term to describe the exhaustion and stress people have felt this past year.

Ithaca College junior Gabrielle Tola found it difficult to maintain her mental health and wellness after the college abruptly moved to remote instruction mid-semester in March 2020. Tola, who resides in Miami, FL, did not have a safety network of people to go back to at home, she said. She also took a social media cleanse to avoid doom-scrolling through countless reports of police brutality and systemic racism. Tola filled her time with art, composing and producing a song and music video for her single, “Jungle Flame.”

“Through that escapism [via art], I found a lot of motivation to just stop being such a picky perfectionist.” Tola said. “I think that was a very liberating thing for me to let me just move and understand that whatever I release, as long as I’m being intentional about it and that it’s reflecting the love that’s made when I do it, that I know that it will be something good…”

For many like Tola, making art during this time has proved to be a healing experience. Vann also found this to be the case for him, using art as a vehicle of motivation to escape feelings of pandemic burnout.

The relationship between art and health benefits have long been studied to examine the ways in which different art forms can heal one. Data courtesy of:

“I think there is an image that can be created that can heal the masses,” Vann said. “That’s what I want to accomplish one day, to create an image … that you can look at it, be inspired and want to have humanity.”

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