Section: Arts

What Are We Doing website provides a forum for the arts

In a fit of sadness and inspiration, Natalie Berger ’20 and her sister Estelle collaborated to make the online art and lit magazine What Are We Doing (whatarewedoing.space) as a platform for friends and acquaintances to share content that will hopefully alleviate some of the loneliness of quarantine. Natalie Berger is a current senior at Kenyon, while Estelle is about to begin her Ph.D in psychology in the fall.

The Berger sisters, from Portland, Ore., take turns writing the newsletter section of the website. They have published two newsletters thus far: The first, which they co-wrote, clarifies  the online magazine’s purpose, and the second is a creative piece in which Estelle describes the construction across the street and the works people submitted that week. The rest of the What Are We Doing project is composed of artwork, music, recipes, writing and even film, which is creatively displayed on the site. The layout of the website can be attributed to Estelle, who is “good with computers,” Natalie wrote in an email to the Collegian, “so that helps the site.” All of the artwork is split into the three categories of “painting & illustration,” “mixed media” and “photography,” and every piece lists the artist, their background, website and social media handle.

As a senior at Kenyon, Natalie felt especially detached from her friends from school, who she won’t see next fall on campus. “This website is really helping me feel connected to friends and people who I haven’t spoken to in a while,” she wrote. Not only does it serve as a platform for interaction, but also satiates a personal need for Natalie and Estelle to see what their friends are up to during quarantine. It’s also a unique opportunity to see others’ artistic interpretation of the feelings quarantine instills.

According to the duo, they began requesting submissions from “talented friends, and their friends and their friends,” which consists mostly of people in their twenties. However, in their Instagram bio (@whatare.wedoing), they provide an email to which anyone can send their art, which will expand their submission base. The Bergers alluded to a four-year-old’s paintings which will be featured in the online publication soon. The comfort of recognizing names of Kenyon students acts as social interaction (considering the current standards). It serves as a reminder that the effort to quarantine is collaborative, just like What Are We Doing. 

Even though the website is certainly helpful for the tumultuous present, Natalie and Estelle don’t want it to be something with an expiration date. The Bergers wrote of their plans in an email to keep its original purpose as a space to publish art and literature. “In a way, the mindset that the quarantine elicits will likely transcend the current moment. We want to continue to capture the art and music and writing that people produce in the months and years to follow,” Natalie wrote. They recognize the perpetual impact this period will have on children, students and the world, so the importance of creative expression remains.

What Are We Doing not only fills a portion of the large void of free time, but is a creative outlet for the frustration of not being able to see friends and walk outside. Anyone can submit to the online magazine through their email submit2wrwd@gmail.com, and also browse the gallery at whatarewedoing.space.

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