Unprecedented times. Pivot. Work from home. Flatten the curve.
The continuing COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way we live our lives and has spared no one from its effects. Perhaps hardest hit — and often unseen — are Carolina’s staff members, many of whom have continued working long hours during the past two years to keep the University community safe and healthy as operations continued.
“Carolina’s employees are the backbone of our University,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said. “Their dedication to supporting our students and community has been front and center throughout the past two years, and they have made extraordinary efforts to ensure that we can continue our teaching, research and service missions despite the challenges and added stress brought on by the pandemic. We would not be the leading global public research university in the nation without their commitment.”
“I Was Here: Postcards from the Pandemic” aims to highlight, recognize and honor Carolina’s hardworking staff by providing space for private processing through artistic expression. Brought to you by the Staff Advisory Committee to the Chancellor (STACC), UNC Human Resources, University Libraries and UNC Arts Everywhere, this creative postcard project will launch on March 1.
Staff members will be able to participate in the whimsical, nearly forgotten art of postcard writing to highlight experiences, thoughts and emotions brought on by the pandemic.
There are no requirements as to what can be on each postcard. It might be doodles, collages, self-reflections, photographs, poems or messages to a loved one, friend or stranger. Participants may submit postcards anonymously. Project organizers encourage full freedom of expression.
To make this project accessible to as many staff members as possible, individuals and teams may access virtual help or receive take-home kits, and they may participate in person through workshops during the month of March.
In-person workshops include times set aside at creative spaces such as the Morrison Art Studio, located at the bottom of Morrison Residence Hall, and the Ackland Art Museum. The Ackland will offer three workshops in its galleries in which participants will be guided through a personal response exercise by a museum staff member. Staff can also join a pop-up workshop during the UNC Human Resources Employee Wellness Day fair on Friday, March 18, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Frank Porter Graham Student Union.
“This is a great team building opportunity for staff on campus to reconnect and build community in their units,” said Employee Forum Chair Katie Musgrove. “Connection with our colleagues is needed now more than ever with the changing landscape of the workplace. What better way to do that than engaging with the arts together in a cathartic expression of your thoughts and experiences from the past two years.”
Exhibition and prizes
At the end of March, postcards will be collected and incorporated into a special exhibit as part of Arts Everywhere Day, the annual celebration of arts on campus on April 8. Those who wish to can also preserve their postcards in the University Archives.
Three prizes will be awarded to employee units and/or teams with the highest percentage of postcard submission. Prizes include funds for the unit to use at their discretion as well as creative experiences curated for the winning teams. The hope is that this project will not only be an avenue for staff to process their experiences but will also provide a fun and meaningful way for staff teams to connect.
Marking your place at Carolina
Consumed by a global pandemic, the last few years have been extremely unpredictable. Who knows what the future will bring? But through it all, University staff have shown great efforts of resilience, community and action, and “I Was Here: Postcards from the Pandemic” will be a small way to memorialize their experiences.
“I am a product of my generation in that through most of my professional life, I was not encouraged to share my feelings in the work environment. It was considered unprofessional. Thankfully, the workplace has evolved, and we are encouraged to see each other as whole human beings, not just employees,” says STACC member Shayna Hill. “We have lived and worked together through an historic event. We have survived, strived and thrived together. Our stories are heroic, tragic, joyous and everything in between. To be able to say ‘I was here’ is a personal triumph for me, and I feel lucky to have gone through this with my UNC colleagues. This project allows me a creative outlet to express that sense of triumph and gratitude and it also allows me to mark my place in UNC’s history. I was here!”
Learn more about the project, workshops and submission guidelines here.