Baumann and Burke create community with shared art space to combat negative effects of physical distancing


Creating Community During COVID-19

In response to the growing need for supporting mental health and maintaining a strong sense of community at Pitt during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., Jessica Burke, professor in the department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and associate dean for academic affairs, and Sara Baumann (BCHS '19), postdoctoral associate also in BCHS, turned to creativity. Building upon their current research at the intersection of arts and mental health in Nepal, they realized that many of the lessons learned can be applied right here in our community at Pitt. Burke and Baumann created a community-engaged virtual art gallery that explores resilience, social cohesion, and creativity during the pandemic, in partnership with the Office of the Vice Provost.

View the gallery

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis that rapidly and significantly impacted millions of lives around the globe,” said Burke. “The past several weeks [have] been incredibly challenging,” said Burke when the submissions opened back in April. “But through flexibility, ingenuity, creativity we’re all adapting to our current situation. Sara and I are working with others from across the University to implement ways for us to stay connected despite the physical distancing.”

They asked the Pitt community to respond to the following prompt using any creative tools and approaches they could think of:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, how have you stayed connected and maintained community connections?

“Existing evidence on this relationship between art and public health demonstrates that art space interventions like this project can be powerful approaches for reducing adverse physiological and psychological health outcomes,” said Baumann. “We developed this project to help address social isolation and encourage strategies for social inclusion among our Pitt community.”

As we transition into the fall term, they are still taking submissions and hoping to learn from fellow members of our Pitt community about how students, faculty, and staff have been adapting to the new COVID-19 learning environment at Pitt. You can submit your creative works on the virtual gallery page.

View the gallery

Read more about Pitt Public Health’s COVID-19 response…
Read more BCHS news…


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