Art in Isolation PEC brings out local creativity during COVID-19 crisis

LOCK DOWN- Krista Dalby, Artistic Director of the Department of Illumination has created "Papercut Self-Portrait in a Pandemic" as part of Art in Isolation PEC (Submitted Photo).


The Department of Illumination (DOI) launched their latest project “Art in Isolation PEC” on April 22nd. This is the latest from the artistic company well known for such events as Ice Box and and the Firelight Lantern Festival.

The project begs the question, “what does life in isolation look like?”

To help answer this, The Department of Illumination and META The County have invited Prince Edward County artists to participate in this online art project running until May 22nd.

To participate, people can create artwork in any medium on one of several pandemic-inspired subjects: self-portrait, still life with quarantine,the view from here, and companions. Artists are invited to share as many works as they’d like to the Facebook group “Art in Isolation PEC”, or upload images to Instagram with the hashtag #artinisolationpec.

The project is intended to be an opportunity for people to document their unique points of view, as they shelter in place and become intimately connected with their surroundings during this unprecedented time.

All forms of creative expression are welcomed, including short stories, songs, poems, dances, animation, etc.

DOI Artistic Director, Krista Dalby, spoke with the Gazette regarding the inspiration for this project and what it means to create art in isolation.

Artist Mehdi Agahi approached me a couple of weeks ago with an idea of issuing a creative challenge to the community. I immediately knew this was a great idea, as well as a way that The Department of Illumination could continue serving the community in these times of isolation,” stated Dalby. “ Mehdi and I talked on the phone a few times to develop the idea; we knew we had to launch the project quickly for maximum impact.”

Dalby explained that the pair wanted to give prompts that would inspire people to capture their immediate surroundings: the who, what and where of their isolation experience.

As we are planning on having a curated, real world show of some of these works, we thought giving prompts would help unify the show, giving it some cohesion,” she said.

Dalby argues that perhaps now especially, we are reminded of the value of art. And that, often, technology helps deliver the arts to those in isolation.

What we’ve been reminded of during this time is the power of the arts to lift our spirits, to bring us together when we’re apart, to entertain and amuse us. Whether reading books, watching Netflix, streaming concerts, taking virtual tours of galleries, or doing Tik Tok dances with our families,” iterated Dalby. “It is hard to imagine life in isolation without the arts! Artists and art is what is making this situation bearable. Audiences need to remember that many artists are economically vulnerable right now because of cancelled gigs and lost sales, and if they can afford to show support for their favourite artists or arts organizations, they should do that.”

So far, the Art in Isolation project has 221 members on Facebook, with more joining every day.

There are also those who have joined in on Instagram.

Dozens of people have submitted work so far- and I have a feeling there are a bunch of works-in-progress out there! We have 23 people signed up for our Art Kitchen mailing list, and there’s always room for more,” said Dalby.

The deadline of May 22nd, explained Dalby, was imposed to help motivate artists to create works sooner than later.

Many artists have been having a hard time exercising their creativity; our hearts and minds have been kidnapped by worry, grief, and stress,” said Dalby. “But the arts have a tremendous power to deliver mental health benefits, and if an artist can just force themselves a little bit to get started, they can reap the rewards.”

So far, the most popular medium for this project has been photography, with self-portraits stealing the show.

For Art in Isolation photography has been very popular, I think because it is so immediate, and is a great documentary tool,” Dalby mused. “Self-portraits have been the most popular category – there have been lots of beautiful and unique works coming in. The prompts offer an opportunity for reflection for those who wish to take it, and self-portraits allow us to contemplate who we are at this time.”

Apart from Art in Isolation, the DOI has taken over Art Kitchen, which used to be run by Christine Renaud at Prince Edward Learning Centre. Normally a weekly drop-in event for people to make art together, this too has moved online.

We had our first Art Kitchen last week and twelve people attended. Unlike our meet-ups in the real world, we can’t all talk at the same time, so I have to do a little facilitating of the conversation. I was amazed that after two hours I left our digital meet-up with the same warm fuzzies that I get from the real world Art Kitchen. Of course it’s not the same as seeing each other in person, but it was still just lovely,” Dalby enthused.

Those who are interested in attending Art Kitchen may do so every Monday from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. To join, email Krista Dalby at [email protected].

For more information about Art in Isolation PEC, please see their Facebook group here: