Experiments in togetherness: 7 ways to create and share from your home, with others in their homes, without ever leaving home

Artist impression of the bridge that connects Perth Children’s hospital to Kings Park ©The West Australian, 2018

“One of the amazing things about the human species is that, over time, we have become very creative. We’ve adapted to survive. That’s what people will rely on now — coming up with incredibly imaginative ways to find connections even when they’re not in the same physical space together.”

- Agustín Fuentes, evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame (quoted in The New Yorker, March 2020)

Social distancing and self-isolation have intensified indoor life for many of us. Thankfully, people across the globe are experimenting with creative new ways of staying connected. Artist, educator and creative producer Chloe Osborne and teacher and creative learning specialist Maggie Delwiche offer a set of collaborative, art-inspired themes you might like to explore with friends and family who aren’t in your immediate household — 7 ways to create and share from your home, with others in their homes, without ever leaving home.

1. Pass it on

“Creativity is Contagious. Pass it on.” — Albert Einstein

Unizale, from rubber block prints workshop ©Anne E G Nydam, 2018

Since the Victorian era, and probably long before, people have played games which invite them to make art together. Games which involve turn taking to create a ‘surprise’ final piece invite people to imagine, take chances and discover new ideas and possibilities. Physical distance can make this process even more exciting by building suspense and fuelling curiosity as you wait for the next piece to be created and shared. These activities could be used to build connections between members of a household or wider to connect families, friendship or community groups who aren’t able to share physical space.

● Digital Story telling — set up a WhatsApp group for all the participating families, create a filmed “chapter” and pass it on to someone else to make the next one. Digital extension of classical collaborative story building

Collaborate on a dance — create and film a small section of choreography and pass it on. nb.choose the track before hand

2. Community Trails

“Learn how to see. Realise that everything connects to everything else” Leonardo Da Vinci

Connection- Fractal Neural Pathways ©Needpix

With government recommendations of ‘one form of exercise a day’, a daily walk has become a precious opportunity to feel connected to our neighbours. Community trails offer a playful invitation for families to engage with, both as creators and “searchers”. They allow us all to feel connected to our neighbours, bridging gaps of distance through small gestures perched in windows. These hunts are also connecting families across villages, cities and countries, with photos or people’s contributions and/or their discoveries being shared online.

But deeper than this, these community trails model solidarity and reinforce the message that ‘we are all in this together’, a treasure hunt in which we are all on the same team!

Global Rainbow Trail

Bear Hunts

3. The Art of Gifting

“Art is a form of love. Art is the ultimate gift. Art heals life.” — Robert Genn

People United neon sign in window of sidney cooper gallery canterbury 2016

The United Nations has published the first ever ‘open brief to creatives everywhere’ aiming to raise awareness during the pandemic. “You have the power to change the world,” the brief states.

There are 6 different mini-briefs and one of them is Kindness Contagion. How might we share this brief with our children? How might we empower them to create kindness inspired “gifts” for their community?

Encourage your children to reimagine what ‘gifts’ are. How do we feel when we receive a gift? Thankful, connected, loved, and excited. Challenge yourselves to find different ways that you can elicit these feelings without physically being in the same space as the receiver of your gifts.

You might like to think about words, shapes, colours that make you feel happy and connected, share a quote from a book you are reading or think of your own message of hope. Or consider finding ways to signpost local friends to gifts you’ve discovered in your local area when you are on your daily walk; a blossoming flower, a crumbling wall, a stain on the pavement that looks like a smiling face. These are small, simple traces of love; evidence that someone important to us has been on the same spot as that we have and shared something in spite of our separateness.

Spread love by leaving hearts in public places to remind people that they are loved and valued.

● Leave messages in chalk on the pavement or paint stones at home to place in open space when you are outside to exercise.

4. Shared Challenges

“The Important thing is that we stick together” — Buzz Lightyear

Netherlands-based artist John Breed, ©Collosal.com

There are more live-streamed workshops for families and children than ever before. Artists have been hosting masterclasses on how to draw, paint, write, and play, authors have been reading their books live and you can even listen to an astronaut read you a book from space! These shared experiences give us the sense of being part of something bigger than our household and allow us to connect afterwards to talk about how it was.

However, you do not have to be an expert or in a spaceship to initiate a shared challenge. Work together to generate a list of treasures to find, either around the house or on a walk. Try being non-specific and open so that all parties have the opportunity of finding something, there are no wrong treasures in this game. For example: find something green, find five of the same thing, something that makes me feel big, something that makes me feel happy, something that reminds me of peaceful time, something that can make music. Give yourselves a time limit and reconnect on screen to share your items and compare your stories behind the treasures.

You can also do live challenges whilst connecting online with friends or family, helping children connect in meaningful ways and holding their focus on their peers for longer. How about co-curating a pop up museum together for example? Decide collectively (or parent/guardians can collaborate in advance) on the museum’s themes and then… go foraging! To adapt for different ages you could consider the following: The Museum of blue/round things/tiny things — a search and sort challenge collating all of the blue/round/tiny things in the respective houses to make one shared collection; The museum of happiness — bringing together the items which you associate most with being happy; The museum of deep thinking — a collection of items which help you to think.

● Creative Isolation — a list of creative and cultural organisations offering digital content that you could “share” together.

● A top team of visual artists — including Anthony Gormley, Grayson Perry, Jeremy Deller and Gillian Wearing –have launched an activity pack full of creative ideas for shared activities in lockdown

5. Digital Jamming

To me, a sure-fire way to get in a rut is by sitting around playing by yourself for too long. You’ve gotta get out there and jam, man! Dimebag Darrell

Synesthesia artist Jack Coulter hears colours and paints the sounds . This painting was a collaboration with online music streaming service Deezer, inspired by music performed at Glastonbury Festival 2016.© Jack Coulter

Collaborating with other people brings energy and new ideas. There are a number of simple digital tools and ideas that you could try to flex your creative muscles, regardless of previous experience. Do something you love with people who live all over the world or try something new in the company of friends. From simple, game-based apps to apps that work with lots of different art forms at the same time… there are lots of people out there waiting to connect.

Touch and connect with others using the new app from BREAD art collectivefor touch screen devices. Two people can use the app at the same time to ‘connect’ and chase each other’s fingers across the screen in a playful kind of finger dance.

Draw and write interactive messages in the sand together with simple, colourful marks that fade within moments. This online sandbox was created by Output Arts for both touch screen devices and laptops.

You can even sing with hundreds of people via The Sofa Singers!

Want further inspiration? Try one of these:

6. Play it forward

“An act of imagination is actually an act of survival.

It is preparing us to imagine possibilities.”

Girija Kaimal, researcher in art therapy, professor at Drexel University

Glass House created for Seeds of Diversity, Rio Heritage Paralympic Torch Lighting Ceremony 2018

Be the catalyst for others’ creativity!

The current situation can leave us feeling disconnected with our own imaginative playground, but by sharing a kernel of an idea or setting a creative challenge, you can inspire others to imagine, play and create. Invite friends and family to write, draw, paint, sculpt, dance and pass it on to others. This is not an exercise in how to write the new bestselling anthology of poetry or work of visual art, it is an expression of connection with a loved one. Do not worry about the final piece, enjoy the process, get messy, explore, there are no rules and there is no good or bad art! Imagination is key; because if anything becomes possible, then all problems are solvable, all anxiety can be faced, all connections can be made. And that feeling is empowering for us all.

Send your creation to the loved one who inspired it and challenge them to send this same invitation to someone new. How far will your message of connection spread?

● Write someone a poem How to gift a poem…

Draw a portrait of someone from a photograph then send them a picture of it with a challenge to draw someone else

7. Reflect & Reach Out

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people” — Vincent Van Gogh

“This work, drawn directly onto two pieces of the Berlin Wall by artists STIK and Thierry Noir, sends a powerful message about how we as individuals can maintain connections across borders, walls and barriers. Walls can be built to keep people in or out but eventually walls are pulled down by the power of the people” ©Migration Museum

In this uncertain time we have been forced to slow down and reflect. This change of pace can open up time to practice reflection and being present. Take time out of your day to stop, breathe and reflect and try a led gratitude meditation. Who in your life are you thankful for? Why? What specific actions do they do that make you thankful? Use these prompts to help you think .

Spend time thinking about someone who is important to you but far away, freewrite about that person for 3 minutes. Highlight your favourite words or phrases. Use these as ingredients for a poem — write them on post it notes and then play with the order of your poem. Move them around until you have something that you like then share it with the person you are thankful to.

Put on a piece of music that reminds you of one of your favourite people and then let your coloured pens dance on the page. Think about a memory you have with them and draw the journey of your memory on the page. Send them your Memory Picture. You can also think about people who deserve to be celebrated in your community or country.

● Community Champions. Think about people whose everyday actions help to make your community fairer and stronger. Use ‘Peace is a doing word’ zine by Emergency Exit Arts as a prompt

Hunting for Treasure in people. A resource for primary schools exploring values, role models and the SMSC curriculum through arts-led and creative literacy-led activities by People United

Random acts of Kindness — write your own thank you letters ‘Gratitude improves relationships, physical health, self-esteem, and your mindset.’

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Chloe Osborne

Chloe Osborne

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