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'Healing Through Art' invites Emory community to share experiences of grief, loss

Members of the Emory community are invited to share art representing their experiences of grief, loss and hope during recent months by contributing to the “Healing Through Art” online gallery.

Emory’s Atlanta and Oxford campus spiritual life offices are offering a new way for members of the Emory community to share about grief, loss and other changes experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Black violence, immigration concerns and other events of recent months.

“Healing Through Art” is a virtual gallery on a dedicated Instagram account: @emory_hta. Submissions will be accepted beginning Monday, Sept. 14.

“Your choice of expression can come in various forms. You could post a photograph, a drawing, a collage, a painting, a poem, a song,” project organizers explain online. “The important thing to remember is that it’s not about perfection, it’s about the emotion. Art communicates emotion. While this is an art project, we defined art broadly to hopefully capture the sheer breadth of different styles, depictions and forms.”

A first rendition of the project idea emerged in June when student Rohini Guin spoke with the Rev. Lisa Garvin, associate dean of the Chapel and Religious Life, about ways the Emory community could gather for a vigil even with physical distancing measures. That led to the idea of providing drawings of candles — representing hope and light — to residence halls for students to color and piece together as a unified visual collection.

The concept shifted to a digital platform when the university’s fall semester plans transitioned to include fewer students on the Oxford and Atlanta campuses.

“We reevaluated the idea and decided a digital platform would be more effective at connecting students from distant places around the globe,” says Guin, a senior from Boston majoring in biology and chemistry. “We expanded the forms of artistic medium we would accept to ensure more people would be comfortable participating in the art initiative.”

The Rev. Greg McGonigle, dean of religious life at Emory, and the Rev. Lyn Pace, Oxford College chaplain, hope the project will serve as a beginning point for additional conversations.

“Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been aware of the spiritual needs of the community related to the many profound changes this time has brought to people’s lives,” McGonigle says. “We thought that encouraging this community art project would allow people to share and process some of what we are all carrying right now — and perhaps where we are finding signs of hope.”

 “The last seven months have wrought much change in our lives,” Pace says. “Change is often accompanied by loss and grief and we know many of us in the Emory community have felt this deeply. Our goal, especially through the leadership of students and in consultation with our partners in Counseling on both campuses, is to offer an outlet for that grief through the arts. We hope an ongoing dialogue will ensue from this initial event.”

Emory students, faculty, staff and alumni are invited to share their work with Healing Through Art. For more details on the initiative, visit the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life’s information page.

In addition to the online exhibit, campus spiritual and other communities are encouraged to create opportunities for people to share about their art and what is going on in their lives. One example is a project by Oxford student Hannah Kreuziger called the “Letters to Dad Project.”

“Grief and loss are difficult to process individually,” Guin says. “We hope this online space will help people feel more connected and able to name and acknowledge their grief or share what brings them hope in these times.”

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