Art Can Connect Us in Times of Disconnection

Juggling at Arc GalleryMy gig at the Arc Gallery last Sunday almost got “COVID cancelled” – one of my sons tested positive, we were all quarantined and I needed a negative test on Friday to avoid canceling the Sunday event. It worked out, everyone is healthy and I learned a lot about how art can connect people in this time of disconnection.

I wanted my event to relate to the exhibit, “Dollhouse,” and to use techniques from my time as a teaching artist, a communications consultant and a professional juggler. We started with “People Weaving” – a rotating series of duet interactions designed to quickly weave a community out of a group of strangers. Since we were surrounded with visual art based on the theme of childhood and play, I asked the pairs to share sounds from their childhood, to create a childish dance together, etc. They then got into trios and each person told a story about an object that they remember from childhood. The room started to look and sounded like a party.

Switching gears, I taught a simplified version of a juggling act my trio Vaudeville Nouveau did in the ‘80s, using three balls instead of nine juggling clubs. Laughter and tennis balls ricocheted off the walls.

The final step was for each group to create a short theater piece using at least one of their childhood stories combined with juggling. After 7 minutes, they performed for each other.

When we sat down to reflect on our hour together, many of the participants talked about how wonderful it was to connect with people in three dimensions, how long it had been since they’d heard about a stranger’s life and how juggling and performing was ‘way out of my comfort zone and I feel so good right now.’

People need to connect. Art connects people.

Priscilla Otani dollhouse
Artwork by Priscilla Otani
Dollhouse by Laura Abrams
Artwork by Laura Abrams
Dollhouse by Geralyn Marie Montano
Artwork by Geralyn Marie Montano
Dollhouse by Dianne Hoffman
Artwork by Dianne Hoffman