Portraits of a Pandemic opens October 23 at ROM 

Portraits of a Pandemic runs October 23, 2021 to February 21, 2022.Portraits of a Pandemic runs October 23, 2021 to February 21, 2022.
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This fall, Royal Ontario Museum in nearby Toronto engages in a conversation on youth and the pandemic with the launch of an original exhibition, #MyPandemicStory: Youth Create Portraits of a Pandemic, on Oct. 23. A powerful presentation of children’s artwork, the exhibition shines a light on youth experiences of the COVID-19 global health crisis and its impact on a generation. This exhibition is open free to the public with no general admission to the Museum required.

ROM’s first crowd-sourced exhibition is one of the few pandemic-related exhibitions worldwide to focus on children’s points of view. #MyPandemicStory launched in spring 2021 with a call for Ontario youth aged 4 to 18 to reflect on and express their experiences of the pandemic through a work of art in any medium. Responses came in from across the province, from as far north as Thunder Bay, east to Lancaster and south to Windsor, in over 2,300 artworks created independently, with families, or through school projects. The callout for #MyPandemicStory art became an opportunity for young people to express themselves, join a community of other young artists, and contribute to a platform for understanding how this generation has been affected by the pandemic.

Sixty of the artworks are featured in a new exhibition space inside the doors of ROM’s Michael Lee-Chin Crystal (Bloor Street) entrance. Together, the works of art form a stirring portrait of the complex journeys young people have experienced during this pandemic from moments of sorrow, isolation to self-discovery, hope and delight. The exhibition #MyPandemicStory: Youth Create Portraits of a Pandemic emphasizes the voices of youth through large-format artist quotes that highlight themes such as struggle, perseverance and connection. Seating spaces with support material offer opportunities for visitors to rest and reflect, while a response station invites visitors to share their own responses to the pandemic and contribute to an ongoing conversation in the exhibition. Graphic illustrations by Toronto-based artist Ene Agi show seemingly ever-growing pandemic hair winding across walls and tie the exhibition space together.

“This isn’t an art exhibition in the traditional sense,” emphasizes Justin Jennings, ROM Senior Curator of Archaeology of the Americas and curator of the #MyPandemicStory exhibition. “It’s about showcasing the art, but it’s also about showing the wide array of experiences youth have gone through in this pandemic, the depth of which touched us profoundly. #MyPandemicStory is about listening to the artists’ voices, both in their artworks and descriptions of their creative process, in order to support this generation going forward.”

The artworks represented in #MyPandemicStory were selected in collaboration between ROM staff and external advisors that included media personality and GEM Ambassador Melissa Grelo, CAMH clinical psychologist Dr. Joanna Henderson, YWHO youth ambassador Aaron Sanqui, Métis/Cree educator and principal Christina Saunders, and artist and activist Syrus Marcus Ware. Members of the COVID-19 mental health study team led by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) consulted on the exhibition development.

#MyPandemicStory: Youth Create Portraits of a Pandemic runs Oct. 23, 2021 to Feb. 21, 2022. ROM continues to operate at reduced capacity and adheres to the guidelines set out by Ontario Public Health. For more information, please see the ROM website.

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