Creativity, as it turns out, is especially hard when your brain is in survival mode.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City early this Spring, CreateNow, AAWW’s arts education and outreach program, shifted online. CreateNow is an interactive creative writing and storytelling program offered after school to teens in public high schools as well as to senior citizens at senior centers across NYC. Students participate in a series of weekly workshops to gain writing and storytelling skills and work closely with established writers of color, graphic novelists, journalists, and poets.
Despite the distance forged by a virtual setup, our students found meaningful ways to connect with one another. Alongside weekly virtual workshops, we established a digital community on Discord where students from the three high schools we partnered with—Hunter High School, New Design High School, and Boerum Hill School for International Studies—could connect. The CreateNow digital community has been a sanctuary. Student “attended” workshops from the other schools, vented in the venting thread about the dark days of being quarantined, share self-care suggestions, and gave each other encouragement about their creative projects.
There has been so much loss that we and our students have faced this year. We’ve cried together and talked about our fears together. We made each other laugh. One student drew a 23-foot-long comic about a quarantined panda, a snippet of which is included in this zine. We even had a chance to attend a virtual “field trip” to a local zine library.
The colorful digital zine we are launching today contains selections of work from our student writers and artists at Hunter High School, New Design High School, and Boerum Hill School for International Studies, just as many of them return to school for the fall.
Below, CreateNow teaching artist Wendy Xu reflects on her work teaching in the program this spring, during a pandemic, as a foreword to the digital zine.
—Ace Yang, AAWW Youth and Community Outreach Coordinator
“On the days we can get up and pick up that pencil, comics and drawing can be comfort and catharsis”
by Wendy Xu