Before COVID-19 hit Michigan, the University of Michigan (U-M) Institute for the Humanities had planned an exhibit of regional artists' work, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. When the pandemic put a stop to those plans, institute staff pivoted to put the funding towards something new: a series of livestreamed interviews checking in with Michigan artists to see how they're responding to the outbreak.
The series, entitled "House Calls," started April 15 and will run weekly through June 17.
"We all found ourselves in this pandemic, this time of isolation, and it felt like it was imperative to be responsive, to reach out to artists, and to see how everybody was doing," says Amanda Krugliak, arts curator for the institute and one of three interviewers who host each installment of the series.
Krugliak says she and her colleagues conceived the series as a twist on a traditional artist studio visit, eschewing the promotional or performative elements of such an event for something more personal.
"It's like a first aid kit," she says. "We're going to make a house call. We're going to see how people are doing. We're going to connect with artists and we're going to just have an intimate conversation."
Krugliak says institute staff sought out a "diverse cross-section" of Michigan artists to feature, and the results so far have been thought-provoking. For example, artist Sarah Rose Sharp discussed the strength she drew from going through the pandemic while living in Detroit. Judy Bowman talked about being quarantined with her 90-year-old mother. And Sajeev Visweswaran, who splits time between Ann Arbor and New Delhi, touched on his sense of privilege in being able to go through the pandemic in the U.S. instead of India.
"He has a much more global perspective about what this means for everyone," Krugliak says. "Rather than thinking about how each of us is in isolation or siloed, it's an opportunity for all of us to share this vulnerability. He sees it as an opportunity, rather than a limitation, in terms of how we might imagine a future after this."
In the spirit of Visweswaran's comments, Krugliak hopes the series will inspire viewers to create larger systemic changes in COVID-19's wake.
"I'd like to think that we could mend or repair, rather than return to failed systems," she says. "... How might we, as creative communities and humanists, find other ways of being in society and being more cognizant of precarity for so many?"
All episodes of "House Calls" are available here. Future episodes will stream live on Wednesdays at 4pm.
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Patrick Dunn is the managing editor of Concentrate.
Photos courtesy of U-M Institute for the Humanities.