Anusha Mamidipaka

Creativity in the Time of COVID-19 (Community Activity Documentation)

I’m a current junior majoring in Neuroscience and minoring in Graphic Design. Although I love to paint and draw, I am even more passionate about creating spaces that invite others to be creative. I created and am the president of a registered student organization called Canvases for Communities that leads virtual art workshops and creates public art events for community members, including middle school students, residents of the Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center, and MSU students. The environment allows others to express how they use creativity as a means to cope with the ongoing pandemic. 

I created a 5-minute film that documents art workshops held throughout the greater Lansing area (at the Village of Lansing, Origami Brain Rehabilitation Center, North Elementary School and the Refugee Development Center). This film focuses on the workshop held at the Village of Lansing. The workshops allowed those who participated to describe how creativity has helped them heal and cope during the ongoing pandemic. Content alerts and warnings: Contains description of physical violence.

I believe that receiving the Microgrant was instrumental in me completing my project. I used the funds to buy supplies for the workshop and video editing software. Without the money, I would not have been able to host as many workshops nor would I have been able to work with as many people. I believe that the workshops and subsequent film will encourage people to use creative expression as a means to cope with the ongoing pandemic, something that would not have been possible without this funding. 

I learned how to be adaptive throughout the process of creating during COVID-19. Many of the workshops were rescheduled or pushed back due to concerns about safety, illnesses, or even the weather. However, we were able to overcome the obstacles and host 4 successful workshops by October 1st. I learned to be flexible, anticipate obstacles, and adapt to the changing times. 

Although I was successful in some ways, I fell short of a few of my goals for the project. I wanted to ask participants to consider how COVID-19 has impacted aspects of their identity and create a piece of art or write a poem that turns these ideas into creative artifacts. However, many of the children and adults participating in the workshops did not want to complete this aspect of the project. They still benefited from the workshops, in my opinion, since they formed new relationships and relieved stress through creative expression. 

Through this project, I also learned about film creation and film editing. The main problem I encountered was acquiring high-quality audio for the film. Although I rented a microphone, the camera still picked up quite a bit of background noise, rendering many of the interviews unusable. For my next project, I will need to rent a better sound system and record in an area with limited background noise. I also realized that creating a 30-minute documentary (my initial proposal) would be quite difficult, so I instead cut up my interviews and recordings to create a more engaging and informative 5-minute video. 

I believe that the CAL Arts Microgrant will benefit other students in the future. These students will not only have complete creative freedom for an individual project, but they will also have the funding to create a large and substantial project. Since the funding was given through a card, the project was substantially easier to complete compared to a project funded through reimbursement.