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U of G capturing the changing world of the pandemic through art

Projects to include 3D art, journals, music, comedy and more
A screenshot from professor James Harley's pilot project submitted to U of G’s online Improvisational Festival where musicians responded to natural sounds with music.

The University of Guelph has awarded over $70,000 to nine projects across disciplines that aim to tell stories of the current pandemic by simultaneously connecting artists and audiences through creative art. 

The projects received $27,000 from the University’s Creating in a Time of Coronavirus Fund, with matching funds from departments, colleges and private donors.

One of the nine projects includes professor James Harley’s project called Interactive Improvisation in Times of Isolation where a group of seven students will create a series of 15 short audio-video recordings in response to sounds of nature such as early morning birds singing.

“Because were isolated and stuck at home, there’s less noise of machine and traffic and so on so and so we can hear more of the natural soundscapes around us,” said Harley.  

Harley is working with seven musicians in the improvisational grad program who each play a different musical instrument and will respond to the sounds of nature with music. 

“What they will do is listen to the soundscape recordings that we made  —birds at dawn or whatever else we have — then they will improvise in response to that. Normally, we would do this all together but the isolation part is that we cant get together,” said Harley. 

He said his team received approximately $5,000 in funding which will primarily go towards paying the musicians. 

“The idea is that they’re improvising while listening to each other but not all at the same time like you would do if you were doing a performance or a concert.”

The final series will be shared online. Here is a pilot project Harley’s team created for U of G’s online Improvisational Festival online. 

Projects will include journals, 3D artwork, music compositions and even comedy. The nine projects receiving funding for Creating in a Time of Coronavirus Fund are:

Datascaping the COVID-19 Landscape at the U of G Campus by professor Nadia Amoroso in the school of environmental design and rural development. Her team will develop 3D models of social distancing to create a series of datascapes to illustrate how the campus looked during the pandemic. 

A digital journal called The Meaning of Making Meaning: Systems in Revolt, Systems in Renewal by professor Catherine Bush from the department of English and theatre studies. Through her project, artists and writers will explore how the world connected with one another during the pandemic, global crises and social justice movements. 

Creating Virtual Spaces for Artists and Performers project by professor Christian Giroux of the school of fine art and music. His team will develop two virtual reality environments that will allow students and performers to explore two creative spaces on campus.  

Interactive Improvisation in Times of Isolation by professor James Harley from the school of fine art and music. Harley’s group will create a series of 15 short audio-video recordings of individual improvisational responses to natural sounds (e.g., early morning birdsongs) and responses to each other’s improvisations.

A Tragic Comedy in Pandemic Times by professor Troy Hourie of the school of English and theatre studies which will take a comedic look at frustrations and woes endured during the pandemic. 

A radio drama series called A Shot in the Dark: Theatre Ensemble Radio Play by Peter Kuling of the school of English and theatre studies.  Inspired by the COVID-19 shutdown, the radio drama takes place at the height of the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 after the Canadian military records Morse code beginning through the solar system.

Connecting Generations through Journaling by professor Kim Martin from the department of history where Martin and her team will distribute 200 blank journals to children from low-income/single-parent households and seniors in long-term care and give them ideas for artwork they could create related to COVID-19. They will then create a digital mosaic and slideshow to be shown on as well as on screens across campus.

Creating bravery by professor Meghan McMurtry of the department of Psychology is a project that plans to create an illustrated children’s book that could help to mitigate needle-related pain and needle fear in children.

A Sonic Tapestry of Guelph Musicians’ Reactions to COVID-19 by professor Alyssa Woods from the school of fine art and music. Woods’s project will include 10 new short works by Guelph-area musicians. 


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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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