We're looking for the Artist in You, Santa Monica: Students (and Others) Contribute to an Online Archive of "The Plague Year" - and Get Put on Public Posters
Local artist seeks the public's response the a year of Covid-19
May 12, 2021
Paula Goldman is looking for the artist in you, Santa Monica. With a grant from the Art of Recovery, an initiative of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs, Goldman is tasked with the mission of seeking the public's response to a year of Covid-19 and our hopes for the post-pandemic world. She wants as many people as possible to visit the "Journal of The Plague Year" website (https://covid-
19archive.org/s/archive/item) and post their text, image, video, or oral history. From these, she selects some fortunate number to be printed physically on banners and posters that will be displayed around Santa Monica. On the Third Street Promenade, Goldman has already put up for display six submissions from Lincoln Middle School students. You can see them on rainbow backgrounds, a theme inspired by the Colby Poster Company posters that used to advertise concerts and other events in the region.
"I personally am really uneasy about our future," Goldman writes to us. "It seems to me that visualizing and verbalizing what comes next helps, along with seeing what other people think." In particular, she hopes the physical manifestations of the public's submissions will inspire and cheer. "I am a huge believer that art projects should be everywhere, to compete with all the commercial noise."
In addition to the physical banners, all submissions will be kept as a cyber time capsule of this hopefully unique period in our history and searchable on the Plague Year website. The website is a project of the School for Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. Its title comes from the 18th century Daniel Defoe novel, A Journal of the Plague Year.
Goldman is a longtime Santa Monica resident, moving here in 1997 after completing an MFA in Photography at CalArts. Her children attended Santa Monica schools, and she's still friendly with the teachers she met then. Most of Goldman's submissions so far have been from SMMUSD students, who appear to be eager to share their hopes and dreams. Unfortunately, "it's been much harder to get parents to sign releases than to get the students to write," Goldman notes, even though only first names and last initials are used as identifiers on the website.
Another unexpected difficulty Goldman has run into is finding places willing to display the physical submissions. "I had originally envisioned filling vacant storefront windows with posters of each submission all over town, and that that would generate interest," she writes. "Not as easy as I thought, however." She had imagined the owners of vacant storefronts, of which there are many, would be happy to let her put her posters in the window. Not so.
Fortunately, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. came through, happy to allow Goldman to display the banners on the Promenade. They were "great about finding a spot for me," Goldman says.
So far, Goldman has 25 submissions, less than she would like. "Publicizing it has been difficult," she says. But the quality of submissions makes up for any disappointment. "Really lovely!" she calls them. Her favorite, from a 7th grader, begins,
"The people, surfing on America,
Their board. Relying on it to carry them above the waters of Bigotry and chaos,
the board is old
and Bloated with water, but it works. Then a wave,
which we did not want to catch, a wave called covid
hit the people and we
were thrown off our board and into the water.
Another poem, clearly from another student, dreams of a wonderful, seemingly unattainable world made up of the most ordinary relics from a pre-pandemic reality. "I hope I can shop at malls with my mom," Sophie C. writes. "I hope I can sing at concerts with my choir."
Anyone may submit their piece to the website directly. By adding the hashtag "#SMHopes" the artwork will be able to be aggregated into the Santa Monica archive and curated by Goldman. Perhaps your work will be printed on a banner and displayed for all to enjoy.