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SAVANNAH, GA (December 28, 2020) — “Finding creative ways to be there for one another.” That’s just one of the many positive lessons living through a pandemic has taught Savannah Fire advanced firefighter Jeremy Veale.
“My wife is an art teacher,” he explains, “so art is a necessity in this house. Because of the pandemic, she had to leave work early before the end of the school year. Since then, her creative influences have carried over into everything we do around here.”
Veale and his family were among hundreds of Savannahians who took part in Telfair Museums’ recent Making Marks: Art and Community in the Time of Pandemic program, which delivered free art kits to social service community partners, Savannah-Chatham County Public School students, first responders, health care workers, and veterans. Participants were invited to make postcard collages about their experiences and mail them back to the Jepson Center, where more than 130 submissions have been on display since the beginning of December.
Many of the community works reflect on and celebrate the role of front-line workers, from firefighters to doctors and nurses. An imaginative collage by Savannah Fire public information officer Jenel Few depicts masked firefighters battling COVID-19 virus particles alongside flames. “Artmaking took my mind off of everything and let me focus on something relaxing and fun,” says Savannah Fire firefighter Joseph Alamillo, another participant.
For Pam Odom of the Ben and Bettye Barnes Center, the program was an opportunity for her and the center’s residents to talk about their difficulties as well as what they had to look forward to, “to take away from what’s going on and come together as a small group and laugh.”
“Making art was very therapeutic,” says Odom, whose postcard catalogs challenges, words of encouragement, reminders of social distancing, and thanks for healthcare workers. “It was a great outlet, especially during this time, to take our minds off current events and focus on ourselves.”
Adds Paula Valdez of the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision: “Art making has been a life saver. It gives you something to do while you are at home. Especially if you’re visually impaired, or any disability—when you rely on the bus system, it limits when and where you can go places.”
While many of the submissions reflected broadly on the pandemic and its effects, others had a much more focused subject. Veale’s postcard in the exhibition, which features cutouts of two dogs and a cat sticking out its tongue, offers a lighter message: Pets are the best companions during a pandemic.
“While the pandemic has not prevented me from continuing to go to work on a regular basis,” he reflects, “I know that it has made life quite difficult for many others. What we can do during this time is continue to find the good in what mostly seems bad.”
About Telfair Museums
Opened in 1886, Telfair Museums is the oldest public art museum in the South and the first U.S. museum founded by a woman. The museum features a world-class art collection in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District and encompasses three sites: the Jepson Center for the Arts, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, and the Telfair Academy. For more information on Telfair Museums, visit telfair.org.