Since the earliest days of the pandemic, beginning in March 2020, City Lore recognized the importance of gathering and preserving creative responses to the corona virus. Initially called, “Touching Hands not Hearts,” The Corona Chronicles put out a call and collected hundreds of videos, photographs of signage, poems and meditations. Our program echoed the major cultural initiative that saw us documenting and conserving the memorials that cropped up around the City after 9/11, culminating in an exhibition at the New York Historical Society in 2002. Our work has become a major archival resource for researchers, writers and others studying and documenting that time. We expect the Chronicles to be equally valuable.
Our documentation included:
*A group poem with over a hundred contributors called “It Takes a Pandemic.”
*Youth responses to the pandemic from our Urban Explorers teen program and our in-school arts residencies, both continued virtually throughout the pandemic.
*Interviews with front line workers, conducted in partnership with documentarian Samuel Lee.
*Signage that appeared on the streets of the Lower East Side.
*Kewulay Kamara’s blog about the pandemic, The Mysterious Traveler.
When the era took on a new cast while already on lockdown from the Pandemic with the murder of George Floyd, we were able to expand our collecting to respond. As widely reported, protestors hit the streets, Black Lives Matter protests grew daily, and organized gangs and others smashed windows and raided stores. On the fabled Bowery, stores boarded up. The looting stopped, but the boards stayed up. Local artists came out to “Bring Back the Bowery” on these wooden “canvases.” City Lore was able to send photographer Tom Pich to document the art and interview the artists. The poet Bob Holman created a video. a testament to the power of art to bring back New York.
Even as the pandemic continues we have continued sharing the material we collect through e-blasts, our website, partner organization and media coverage.