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  • Writer's pictureSheila Novak

A Social Practice Art Project in a time of Social Distancing

Updated: May 13, 2020

As an artist interested in place based social practice, I created CoVictory Gardens to create a sense of connection across distance as the phrase "Social Distancing" entered the vernacular. Already, you may be wondering, what makes this art? And what do you mean by “Social Practice”?

Social art practices frequently explore how art touches people through experience and action. Mary Jane Jacob, in her essay "Social Art Practice as Lived Experience”, contextualizes social practice in the realm of art making: "art making is an inquiry of a special and challenging kind, leading to growth and change in an artist's life... [Artists] share the outcomes of these processes - or in the case of social practice, the very processes themselves - with audiences. So art can be an experience of growth for viewers".

“Social practice art has a huge role to play in helping us face, and in many cases overcome, the problems that affect our world.” - John Davis

Social Practice art goes against many of the standard rules, and limitations, about who can create artwork and what it is. Instead of prioritizing expensive and limited works that are accessible, conceptually and financially, to a few, it fully engages with the notion that art intersects our everyday lives and can help us find deeper connection to each other.

CoVictory Gardens explores how our individual actions allow us to feel more connected to each other and to the place we live. CoVictory Gardens asserts that our personal, often private actions have social and societal implications, nurturing our need for connection. Through highlighting how gardening can build a sense of connection to ourselves and our neighbors, we can cultivate social solidarity and connection during COIVD-19. This project is an artistic endeavor that falls into the artistic realm known as “social practice”

And how can we understand how our personal gardening can help us support our community? Through sharing stories and a map, we share an illustration of our connection, and through social media we can share stories of how we are growing with #covictorygardens. Yet getting off the internet is something this project also supports. So CoVictory Gardening may also help us reconsider how we think about community in the first place. As stated by Wendell Berry:

"a community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives."

This notion is especially true now, as we understand how our individual health practices (donning masks, washing hands) impact the bodily experiences of others. And through gardening, we can explore how our individual wellbeing, manifested in gardening, can nurture our collective wellbeing, as we process stress, grief and loss and find healing in our gardens.

CoVictory Gardens is a project that is fundamentally co-created. As the project grows, the form will be created through participation and action of others, and will take on it’s own life. I am excited to see how our collective and individual energies and connections will continue to grow, over this long season ahead of us, through gardening.

“Especially in times of uncertain political or economic futures, coming together through social art is ever more important to connect with others on a human level, build trust, and forge new ways of being through understanding and unity.” - Cath Colour Carver

#gardening #socialpractice #socialart #socialdistancing #collectivegardening #victorygardens #covictorygardens

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