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"Return to Normal?" COVID Diaries from Local Youth to open July 16 at the Otter Tail County Historical Society

Exhibit in Otter Tail County will document and share the experiences and perspectives of local youth during the COVID-19 pandemic

Three Otter Tail County-based organizations have teamed up on a storytelling project that will give area residents insight into the experiences and perspectives of local youth throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

To create the exhibit, five of the participating youth artists conducted interviews with a local healthcare worker. These interviews explored the emotional toll of the pandemic on frontline workers and directly inspired the diaristic multimedia artworks that each youth is creating for the forthcoming exhibit. An additional young artist will be creating a digital artwork that is inspired by their research on pandemic history for which they utilized the Otter Tail County Historical Society archives.

The project is a partnership between Springboard for the Arts, Otter Tail County Public Health, and the Otter Tail County Historical Society and is being funded by the CDC Foundation to harness the power of the arts to build confidence in COVID-19 and flu vaccines.

“In Otter Tail County’s recent long-range strategic plan, the arts and culture were highlighted as elements of community resiliency,” said Jodi Lien, Director of Otter Tail County Public Health. “People’s stories matter, and their experiences are unique. This project is an opportunity to see and hear a variety of perspectives”

The project is being led by interdisciplinary artist Naomi RaMona Schliesman and multimedia artist Wesley Fawcett Creigh, who were selected by the exhibit partners in December 2021 through an RFQ process. This past spring, Schliesman and Creigh worked closely with five area high school students, Holly Gutzmer, Aurora Lindahl, Maria Myrhe, Sylvia Pesch, and Alex Ramirez, and a Minnesota College of Art and Design student, Nori Donais, who were interested in learning about community storytelling and the arts. Students developed and designed the exhibit with Creigh and Schliesman, which will run from July 16 through September 30, 2022 at the Otter Tail County Historical Society in Fergus Falls.

Springboard for the Arts has worked at the intersection of art and health for over a decade, both in working to make sure artists have access to health care and health insurance, and in creative partnerships with health organizations. “At Springboard, we believe that artists are essential in helping us understand and share stories of complexity and our shared humanity,” said Michele Anderson, Rural Program Director at Springboard for the Arts. “We’re excited for the chance to work with this talented team of creatives and our local partners to highlight how COVID has impacted our youth and healthcare communities, shedding light on the personal stories that help us understand how our decisions and actions are all connected.”

The Museum will also work with the student artists to archive their stories in their permanent collection for future research.

Funding for this effort is made possible through a subaward from the CDC Foundation and is part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) financial assistance award totaling $2,500,000.00 with 100 percent funding from CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS or the U.S. Government.


Springboard Staff

Rural Program Director

Rural Program Manager
Read the press release!

See the press release for the Return to Normal project

Press release