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How a group of artists stayed in touch during the pandemic

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Torin Andersen

What happens when artists who’ve been friends for 40-plus years can’t get together because of a pandemic? They still find time to create art, but now they share it in a journal with each other.

On this month’s Art Works, Torin Andersen visited with Carol Hill and her friends to talk about what they’ve learned about each other.

“This is pictures taken from our shows and for 40 years we had art shows here. When we stopped having the shows, why, we went on to, to do journaling and that kind of thing so.”

These artists started calling themselves, “From the Studio Makers.” When they had to isolate because of the pandemic, they decided to stay in contact through journals they called “Playing Solitaire.”

“We're now doing it once a month when we get a bag. This is the one that I'm gonna hand over to somebody tomorrow.”

“It has everyone's journals and then someone's saying, ‘Take one and pass it on.’”

Torin Andersen

“Like a round robin. When it makes all the round, you take your own out again.” 

The journals would be left on porches or dropped through the window of a waiting car. The next person would leave comments on what was shared, and so on to the next.

“It was, it was just a way of, of continuing our communication so that we stayed connected. Not only were art styles that were different, we were sharing our lives.” 

“I made transition from a woman to a man during this. So someday my kids will get the journals and be able to see oh, that's what happened. Yeah. Yeah.” 

Others also shared vulnerable experiences to overwhelming encouragement and openness. Each artist brought their favorite passage from their own journal. Jo-Anne was the first to share.

“In my first page was, 'it could be worse.' And this was kind of my story of becoming a letter carrier, a supervisor that told me, cuz I whistled while I worked. And he says, 'Whistling women and crowing hens always come to no good end .'<laugh>. In other words, stop whistling.”

Ernie pondered how long they’d been showing art.

“Um, I've never not been showing art. When I was a little kid, I took, I found beautiful rocks and took 'em around to neighbors and tried to sell 'em. Cause I was probably six seven and I'm in my seventies now.”

Anita made a quilt attempting to embody each person of the group.

Torin Andersen

“I've got a little something to represent each of the ladies here, and I have added since this was, was printed. But there's always the little fox and that's kind of our mascot, I guess you would say. So whenever I see a fox, I have to add that.”

Linda was likely the most adaptive to an isolated lifestyle and already had her friends with her in spirit.

“So my favorite page is because we did our shows together, we all bought each other's creations and I have them all over my house. So this page is about how I can look around my house and my cabin and see everybody's work. And that's like being with them. I've always lived in a pandemic. <laugh>. I'm a real, I'm a real, non social person, <laugh>. So I didn't know when it started or when it stopped really, cuz I'm still the same.”


Torin Andersen explores the local arts scene every First Friday on ArtWorks.

He has more than 20 years of experience shaping and documenting the arts in Wichita.