When the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures to nearly every part of life last March, the view of our world became seemingly very small—what we could see out our windows from inside our homes. Most places no longer conducted business in person but rather through a screen or behind a mask. Uncertainty and fear ran high, and certainly, no one expected to be living in pandemic life still a year later.
The limited view and the cover of an issue of The New Yorker magazine inspired local artist Kristin Pluhacek to walk some Completely KIDS participants through a Zoom workshop based on the views from their windows.
“The interesting thing is that artists use windows, in the form of viewfinders, to help them select and fine tune their compositions and work through proportions,” Pluhacek said.
Pluhacek worked with CK Field Club Program Coordinator Katie Krause and tasked the kids to draw what they saw through their windows. They sent photos of their drawings electronically to Krause, which resulted in six images.
“We still had a total of 32 windows to fill so kids, parents and staff snapped photos of the views through their windows and sent them to me,” Pluhacek said.
Pluhacek then used the images she received to paint each view on birch panels. To keep the images as true as possible, Pluhacek used an enlarger, which, she added, only works in the dark. That means Pluhacek completed most of this project overnight rather than during the daytime.
To maintain the illusion of the window, Pluhacek painted the sides of each panel with a deep brown that matches the color used for many of the actual windows represented. The result is a collection of brightly colored paintings looking through the windows into neighborhoods and backyards across Omaha.
“It was really exciting to see the variety of views, and ultimately, very fun to paint them,” Pluhacek said.
Recently, Completely KIDS Facilities Manager John Ems installed the collection of images in a downstairs hallway of the Completely KIDS building.
“The window mosaic makes the hallway feel more like home to me,” said Ann Lawless, Chief Program Officer. “It feels warm. Most of the pictures were taken when the sun was shining, so even though the paintings reflect a time when we were experiencing social isolation, there was still some beauty or brightness.”
Though the pandemic closed in on our views, this project expanded them, serving as an opening to each other’s lives and creating a positive, uplifting experience for the project’s viewers.
“I’m hoping this installation will brighten the Completely KIDS hall where it is installed, reminding everyone of home while softly marking this extraordinary time that we are all sharing from a distance,” Pluhacek said.
While the Completely KIDS building is still closed to the public, the agency looks forward to the day when staff can offer tours again and visitors can view the new art.