“Keep Creating” initiative encourages UMD students to make art amid pandemic

An art studio sits empty in the Art-Sociology Building on March 19, 2020. (Joe Ryan/The Diamondback)

By Madison Peek
For The Diamondback

With the University of Maryland’s art galleries, studios, band rooms and theaters closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the arts and humanities college is encouraging people to pursue art from home through an initiative called Keep Creating.

Launched in early March, the platform’s website hosts virtual events and features students, staff and alumni’s artwork. Those who wish to share their work can do so by posting it to social media and using the hashtag “KeepCreatingUMD,” said Bonnie Thornton Dill, the dean of the arts and humanities college.

According to Dill, the goal is to give students an online space “to continue to share, engage and celebrate creativity” during this time.

“We’re excited about it,” Dill said. “This is a huge global pandemic that we’re living through, and I would like to see how people are using their creativity and expanding it to respond to, to react to and to get through this period.”

[Read more: UMD performance, arts students adapt to online learning — without a stage or dance studio]

Selia Myers, a sophomore flute performance major, said she takes part in the initiative to show her pride as a student of the music school and the university community as a whole. Additionally, being able to view other artists’ work helps inspire her, Myers said.

“I really like seeing other videos online and like seeing that other people are continuing to play,” Myers said.

Myers said she would most likely still be working on her music even without the initiative, but given the current situation, she finds it a welcome distraction — a way to log off of her virtual classes and “kind of get lost in the music.”

Nina Roche, a junior marketing and supply chain management major, said that she has also turned to creativity by dabbling in digital arts.

Roche is not currently taking part in the initiative — she said she didn’t know about it — but hopes to look into participating soon.

Roche said she has seen her friends try art for the first time during the pandemic. She thinks students have been experimenting artistically during this time because they have more time on their hands and need more things to occupy their minds.

“I love that it’s getting people to branch out and be creative and realize that there’s worth in creative endeavors,” Roche said.

[Read more: Student-produced shows explore time travel, identity at The Clarice]

The initiative came together through inspiration from other platforms in place for students, faculty and staff, such as the Keep Learning, Keep Teaching and Keep Working initiatives, said Megan Pagado Wells, associate director of the Artist Partner Program at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

But Keep Creating is different, Wells said, as it aims to connect students of all backgrounds with a wide variety of art and encourage them to create in a difficult time.

“I would love to see students — not just art students but across campus — just really continuing to connect with each other and to create whatever art energizes them and brings them joy,” Wells said. She hopes the initiative helps people rediscover creativity during this time, even “if they feel like they’ve lost it a little bit.”

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