History project to show COVID-19 through kids’ eyes

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 18, 2020

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Art history is in the making in Sterling Heights.

The Sterling Heights Historical Commission wants the city’s youth to do their part to help document for the history books how COVID-19 affected 2020.

The city wants kids and teens ages 18 and younger to create artwork and essays that depict COVID-19 and its impact on current events in a way that will be historically relevant to the future and posterity. Organizers want to gather these works of art and writing as part of a “History Today: The Children of COVID-19” project.

The focus topic is the coronavirus and how it has affected young people’s emotions, perspectives or personal interactions. The Historical Commission plans to archive the entries, give participants certificates and show the works at the Sterling Heights Community Center when it’s safe to do so.

Sterling Heights Historical Commission members opined via email on the importance of documenting young voices in this historic time.

“We’re always living through history, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made that pretty obvious,” Historical Commission chair Meghan Mott said. “This is a unique opportunity to record the impact the pandemic is having on our community, particularly students.”

Historical Commission member Cynthia Appleton explained that groups like hers are always keeping preservation in mind. She said sometimes history happens “right before our eyes,” and that means taking notice.

“That’s what we’re trying to do here,” she said. “The impact of COVID on our youth is a tremendous stress, and even just 20 years into the future, their thoughts will be something for reflection. We want to document that now.”

Karen Turk, the city’s archives librarian, said she usually throws out the journals that she writes to herself every year. But this year is an exception, she said.

“I also take daily photos with my iPhone and plan on selecting at least a dozen to have printed out to keep with my journal, a mask, and the Sunday, November 8th, newspaper with election results,” she said.

Turk believes that many people are documenting 2020 online — even if it’s mundane things like pictures of empty grocery shelves. She encouraged people to back up those files separately from social media sites.

She has a prediction for how people might look back on today.

“I feel that future generations will look back at 2020 as a tumultuous and traumatic year, but also as a year of growth and gratitude in the United States,” she said.

“It takes courage to acknowledge and address how unprepared we were for a pandemic and the existing systemic disparities in health care. Any honest historical assessment of 2020 needs to include those aspects, as well as the contributions by essential workers and the resilience and hope we developed in the face of economic uncertainty, sickness and death.”

Painted or colored art, penciled drawings, and essays should be on paper with a maximum size of 9 by 12 inches. Art should have a title or caption that explains what it is in 25 words or fewer. Essays must be 250 words or fewer.

Submit entries online by visiting bit.ly/shhc-history-today, or mail them or drop them off at the Sterling Heights Public Library. Submissions may be addressed thusly: “History Today: The Children of COVID-19,” 40255 Dodge Park Road, Sterling Heights, MI 48313.

Original submissions will be the Historical Commission’s permanent property. All work should have the child’s first name, the first letter of their last name and their age on the front, as well as their full name, address and phone number penciled on the back. Entries by minors must have a parent’s or guardian’s signed permission note.

Find out more about the project by calling (586) 446-2665.