51ӰԺ

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

51ӰԺ

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

51ӰԺ

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

51ӰԺ

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By James Carter, Staff Writer • June 20, 2024
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Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
Column | Caitlin Clark adapts to life in the WNBA
By James Carter, Staff Writer • June 20, 2024
Opinion | NHL needs to bring specialty jerseys back
By Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist • June 19, 2024

ART Heals Pittsburgh showcases the role of community art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

Photos+by+Justin+Merriman+on+display+at+the+ART+Heals+Pittsburgh+exhibit+in+the+Public+Health+Building.
Bhaskar Chakrabarti | Staff Photographer
Photos by Justin Merriman on display at the ART Heals Pittsburgh exhibit in the Public Health Building.

When quarantine began in March of 2020, the kitchen table became the classroom and the living room couch served as the conference room for business meetings. Lockdown ushered in a wave of isolation and confinement, deeply impacting across the globe. 

Fortunately, creating art empowered many to express their emotions through a creative outlet, particularly during unprecedented times of crisis. Despite isolation, art offered a sense of coalition, connection and community. 

Housed in the School of Public Health, ART Heals Pittsburgh is the visual representation of a that explores the role of community artwork in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project examines the impact of art on mental health from a community perspective during and after the pandemic in Pittsburgh. It features photography by Justin Merriman and quotes from interviews with local Pittsburgh artists. 

Through the collaboration of professors Sara Baumann and Jessica Burke, showcases 27 artists from the greater Pittsburgh region. The virtual gallery and in-person installation allows viewers to consider the role of art in everyday life — especially during times of hardship and recovery. The integration of photographs, illustrations and quotes from Pittsburgh artists encourages visitors to engage with the display and reflect on their own experiences with loneliness during the pandemic. 

Jessica Burke, professor in the department of behavioral and community health sciences and vice dean of Pitt’s School of Public Health, said art is a tool for public health research. 

“I am by no means an artist, but I love art, and so the notion that I can use art approaches for the work that I do in public health felt like a natural fit. Together, we’ve been able to really look at that intersection … around art and health as a research tool,” Burke said. “[We use] arts-based approaches to do research to learn more, because when people are engaged in those types of activities, they’ll gain a depth of understanding that you wouldn’t get through a traditional survey or focus group.”

Through the use of arts-based research methods, the ART Heals Pittsburgh team hopes to engage communities in the promotion of public health and individual well-being. As a contributor to the project, Izzy Wegner, a senior gender, sexuality and women’s studies major, said ART Heals helps to bridge the gap between science and art. 

“People often see art and science as two totally separate things. Health and the humanities aren’t something that intrinsically people think go together, but when you actually look at how people are impacted when they experience art or create art, it’s undeniable that there’s that strong connection,” Wegner said. “We really tried to highlight the focus on community. Communities are a big thing that impacts health, especially mental health.” 

Jeanine Buchanich, associate dean for research at the School of Public Health and vice chair for practice and associate professor in the department of biostatistics, elaborated on the intersection between health and the humanities. 

“The ART Heals project serves both as an inspiration and emphasizes the importance of creative research dissemination and communication,” Buchanich said. “While art and science may often be thought of as separate, there is a rich overlap in discovery and exploration between the two. That is particularly true with scientific communication. The ART Heals team has shown us the power of art and how to incorporate art as part of our scientific communications.”

There is a sense of connection and unity between the Pittsburgh art community throughout the exhibit despite the fact that a large portion of the research was conducted virtually during the pandemic. Having spent her undergraduate career working on the ART Heals project, Korrina Gidwani noted how impactful it is to see the project come to life. 

“It was truly meaningful to see that shift and see how everything that we had worked on and seen through the screen over the last four years came to life,” Gidwani, a Pitt graduate and now first-year medical student, said. 

Aside from the connection between public health and art, ART Heals Pittsburgh highlights the importance of mental health awareness. It emphasizes that feelings of loneliness during quarantine is a shared experience that can be expressed and channeled through artwork. 

Mary Hawk, professor and chair of the department of behavioral and community health sciences and faculty in the infectious diseases and microbiology departments, said ART Heals calls attention to shared experiences throughout the pandemic.

“Having pieces like this that amplify voices, that amplify shared experiences, I think can go a long way in helping individuals … to feel more connected, but also helping researchers and providers to see that lived experience,” Hawk said. 

Burke said ART Heals is a testament to the healing capacity of art and the power of finding solace in community. Moreover, Burke said the project emphasizes the lasting impact of art in our lives and “.”

“It’s really rewarding to me personally,” Burke said. “I mean, we dreamed up the idea of ART Heals Pittsburgh literally while we were all, you know, in isolation and lockdown and sitting in our houses, and then three years later to be able to have it on display in the School of Public Health is really powerful.”

About the Contributor
Amber Frantz, Staff Writer
Amber Frantz is a sophomore neuroscience major with a minor in chemistry and a certificate in conceptual foundations of medicine. Aside from 51ӰԺ, she conducts research for the treatment of chronic pain and is a firm nap enthusiast. In her free time, she can be found baking, reading or hanging out with her six roommates.