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Creating Meaning (and Art) Through Difficult Times

July 17, 2020

Words to Live By was a project aimed at building community through simple, digital workshops that taught participants how to create art through words, sounds, and visuals. After the coronavirus pandemic caused Minnesotans to go into quarantine and social distance from one another, the mission of this project became even more relevant. It just meant that community had to be built at a distance––virtually.

AmeriCorps CTEP members Brian Young, Norma Saavedra, Charlotte Tjaden, and Virginia Lopez Nadal went to work adapting their vision to something that was plausible for participants to engage with while being stuck inside. In-person workshops turned into a public Google Drive that housed three workshops––written, audio, and visual––on Google Documents that participants could go through at their own pace. 

Project participants were encouraged to create art by first engaging in reflection through prompts meant to inspire the creation of their work. Examples of these prompts included “What makes you feel hopeful when things are difficult?” and “What changes would you like to see happen in your community?”. It is by no mistake that these prompts were meant to mirror our current reality and help to process emotions about what’s going on in the world.

Beyond the written instructions, guiding videos, and/or helpful visuals laid out on the Google Document for each workshop, participants had the opportunity to attend one of two virtual informational sessions. Through the power of Zoom, a teleconferencing program immensely popular during the pandemic, participants could have their questions about the project answered live and even receive one-on-one assistance with any problems they had encountered. 

The community aspect that was integral to the project was kept in place by allowing participants to submit their completed projects to our public Google Drive. In this way, anyone could view this public gallery of art created through our workshops and be able to hear others’ reflections on the prompt they chose. 

In creating this project, we hoped to not only give people the space to learn and improve their digital skills, but also to create something intentional and meaningful during the process. Through the intersection of digital skills education, art creation, and personal reflection, we hoped this project would be a useful tool to not only improve ourselves but also our communities during a time when small actions like these are more vital than ever before. 

Group Members: Virginia Lopez-Nadal, Norma Saavedra, Charlotte Tjaden, Brian Young
Community Partner: Project for Pride in Living’s New Foundations

Each year our 35 CTEP AmeriCorps members choose community action projects that make a contribution to bridging the digital divide. The CTEP civic engagement projects are often cited by CTEP AmeriCorps members, staff, supervisors, and community supporters as one of the most unique and energizing parts of the program. This is one of the 2020 civic engagement projects.