The Art Pal Postcard Project 2020 celebrated the important role that art and creativity played in our lives during the COVID-19 pandemic last year — so what sparked the idea for this project?
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2020 was a strange and challenging year. It was a year that compelled us to appreciate the power of the arts to lift us up and provide comfort in times of stress and isolation. During the COVID-19 lockdown, people turned to the arts community in record numbers and participated in creative experiences that fostered connection and emotional wellbeing, as well as providing a much-needed distraction. Throughout this time, it was important for QAGOMA to stay connected to our audiences. We adjusted to the virtual delivery of exhibitions and events quickly, even finding a silver lining in being unable to meet in person at the Gallery: our capacity to engage with audiences previously unreached, in regional Australia, interstate, and as far away as Iran. The Art Pal Postcard Project was designed as part of a suite of virtual experiences for audiences, but by inviting audiences to become our art pen pals, the project extended beyond digital engagement to incorporate an element of tangibility and a real-world connection to community.
When working from home, I was faced with a challenge that will be familiar to many: self-isolating with a small child. Inevitably, I turned to the arts for help to fill our days with meaningful experiences. We went on a prolific creating spree of painting, drawing and craft, we read books, watched movies and listened to music. One of our favourite activities was sending friends pictures and letters in the post. For me, receiving something from a friend in the post conjures excitement and anticipation. No matter how small the item, I always feel a special connection with the sender. This experience left me pondering how we might extend this experience to QAGOMA audiences. And so, the Art Pal Postcard Project was born.
Across July and August 2020, participants signed up for the project, with each receiving a package containing a blank postcard and simple instructions. The instructions asked participants to create an artwork on the front of the postcard, using any medium and subject matter they chose. On the back of the postcard, they were prompted to reflect on the role that art and creativity played in taking them on a journey of wonder, joy or discovery during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 320 people, of all ages and from all over Australia, sent a personal postcard back to QAGOMA. In every medium imaginable, from watercolour to embroidery, their unique responses captured a significant moment in our history and revealed a common thread: that people turned to the arts and creativity during this time for comfort and joy. Many participants reflected on quiet moments at home where they were able to slow down and appreciate the simple act of re-reading a favourite book, listening to music, pottering in the garden or experimenting with a new art or craft hobby. We are so grateful to everyone who shared their creativity with us.
Lucinda Wolber is Public Programs Coordinator, QAGOMA
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The Art Pal Postcard Project exists as a digital gallery and a physical archive housed in the QAGOMA Research Library. A selection is on display in the Research Library at GOMA. The Research Library is located on Level 3 of the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Make an appointment to visit the Library from Tuesday to Friday, 10.00am to 5.00pm. Access to special collections is by appointment only. Contact the Library on (07) 3842 9557 or explore our online catalogue.
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