Art and Writing During the Pandemic: Celebrating the Write Around Portland Partnership

It has been more than one year since Write Around Portland and the Portland Art Museum began collaborating on weekly, art-inspired writing prompts to sustain our souls and our sense of connection during the pandemic. Write Around Portland staff and writing workshop facilitators have created over 60 writing prompts inspired by works in the Portland Art Museum permanent collection and, in recent months, the exhibition Ansel Adams in Our Time. The prompts are shared every Sunday on PAM social media and the PAM+NWFC At Home blog

As an organization, Write Around Portland works to change lives through the power of writing, and to use that power of writing in community to create more just, humane, and kind communities. This opportunity to work with Portland Art Museum has allowed Write Around to connect with new communities, to engage their writing workshop model in a new way, to gain inspiration from new places, and to help people connect with themselves and their neighbors, even across great distances. As Program Manager Sarah Weller notes, “During this time when we haven’t been able to sit at tables and write and share together, Write Around PAM offers invitations to sit on couches (or beds, or floors) instead. The creativity, the connection remains, even though the physical space has changed. The transformational power of writing in community is carried on through this project, and has picked up some new creative energy along the way.”

In May, Write Around Portland facilitator Chelsea Querner led “Writing Place: A Creative Writing Workshop Inspired by Ansel Adams in Our Time” over Zoom. “There was such a unique quality to this virtual workshop,” Chelsea observed. “The distance between one another and between ourselves and the artwork itself felt all but erased. It’s an important reminder that when we write, the best thing we can do is start where we are. ​​Grab that piece of paper, sharpen your favorite pencil. It is as simple as that.” Chelsea and Sarah created an “at home” version of the workshop, which you can follow on your own.

Write Around PAM—initiated in spring 2020 when the Museum was closed and public gatherings disallowed—has continued to feel relevant and inspiring, even as we’ve transitioned to more in-person experiences this month. We plan to continue the program in the months ahead and hope the artwork and prompts that you first experience digitally will draw you to the Museum galleries whenever possible. Thank you, Sarah, Chelsea, and the Write Around Portland community, for providing new and creative ways to connect across distances! We are grateful for our partnership and all of the inspiration you provide.

Hana Layson, Head of Youth and Educator Programs, Portland Art Museum

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