Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
The hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic will slowly fade away but the heart-warming community support will live on.
Two Chatham-Kent artists are creating installations from the community artwork that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing primarily on the May 16 Miracle.
Becky Fixer is looking to collect grocery bags from the May 16 Miracle in an effort to memorialize the biggest community effort during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fixter is hoping to create collages from all the artwork created during the community-driven food drive and make each food bank its own pieces to display on their walls.
“It will be a memory of an amazing day,” she said.
Fixter has been a full-time working artist in Chatham-Kent for several years. These days she is focusing less on selling and more on enjoying the process of creating art.
Coincidentally, local artist Mark Reinhart is also collecting some May 16 art pieces, specifically the signage made to promote the event.
What initially piqued his interest beyond the food drive is the fact that art was being used as a medium to guide the message of the event through the painting of pallets, writing on windows, making videos and signs.
“I’m interested in the fact that art is essential always, but in some ways now more than ever, as a way to connect,” said Reinhart, who is also responsible for all the positive colourful duct-taped messages that can be found around Chatham-Kent.
READ MORE: Local artist continues to expand his duct tape messages
The grocery bag idea first started when Gerry Harvieux, the May 16 Miracle co-captain for the Tilbury area, came up with an idea to get people to decorate brown grocery bags for the donation drive.
“He has such wonderful creative ideas and an artistic brain,” Fixter said of her fellow volunteer.
From there, Foodland, a grocery store in Tilbury, donated some bags to Harvieux and the art project spread like wildfire.
“It snowballed into one of the most incredible moments,” Fixter said. “People were just creating beautiful art on these grocery bags and cardboard boxes. There’s really some amazing stuff on them.”
Fixter then took it up one notch and has decided to accumulate all the grocery bag stock from each community and transform them into one big collage.
Fixter is still fleshing out exactly who will get the art installations and does not want to over promise. But for now she is considering giving one collage to each food bank in Chatham and will make sure every community gets something to put in one of its public spaces. Ideally Fixter would like to collaborate with children in each community to make the pieces but due to the pandemic she has to keep her distance.
READ MORE: Taking part in a Miracle
Reinhart is developing a mobile exhibition that will travel around each community while keeping in mind restrictions that might still be in place due to COVID-19.
The aim of his show will be threefold; to celebrate the May 16 event, to show what Chatham-Kent can do as a community, and to demonstrate how art can help tell the story.
“I think when things feel unstable in general, but especially during the pandemic, when things seem unreal, art helps you grab a hold on it to understand it,” he said. “Art and artists exist in that way of thinking.”
Reinhart also wants to show that art is not just available to a small number of people. With the May 16 Miracle needing to come together quickly and on such a grand scale, many turned to visual messaging to make it impactful, he said.
“The aesthetic of the event was determined by the passion of the people and reflected in the art that was created and the diversity in the different mediums.”
Reinhart is connecting the May 16 installation to a larger show concept on how art helped individuals through the entire pandemic. He is hoping to add Fixter’s collages as a piece in his show.
Reinhart said that art is essential in preserving institutional and community memory.
“Art provides us with opportunities for us to pause and understand what is going on. It’s an opportunity to show each other what we are capable of doing, the ways we were engaged and what we can do moving forward.”
Anyone with leftover May 16 Miracle grocery bags can e-mail Fixter at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the 519 Events and Promotions Facebook page, she said.
Reinhart said he is collecting signs at the Thames Campus Arena. The signs can be dropped off on its front lawn between 7 a.m.-3 p.m.