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Return to Normal? COVID Diaries from Local Youth

Return to Normal? COVID Diaries from Local Youth was on view at the Otter Tail County Historical Society from July through September, 2022.

The exhibit was developed by Naomi RaMona Schliesman and Wesley Fawcett Creigh, in partnership with Otter Tail County Public Health, the Otter Tail County Historical Society, and Springboard for the Arts.

Five young artists posing in an exhibit space with two adult artists in the front.

Front row: Sylvia Pesch, Naomi RaMona Schliesman, and Wesley Fawcett Creigh Back row: Alex Ramirez, Nori Donai, Holly Gutzmer, and Maria Myrhe

The exhibit featured area high school and college students: Holly Gutzmer, Aurora Lindahl, Maria Myrhe, Sylvia Pesch, and Alex Ramirez, and Nori Donais.

Thanks to Jess Thorstad from Lakes Area 360, a virtual tour of the exhibit is now available at

Screen shot image of a virtual tour of the exhibit, showing artwork in the background and circles to click on to view artwork up close.

A screenshot of the virtual tour of "Return to Normal? COVID Diaries from Local Youth."

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.

A young male and his mother stand viewing a film at an exhibit.

Alex Ramirez embraces his mother as they watch the film he created for "Return to Normal" Photo by Michele Anderson

The project was 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”

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
Take a virtual tour of the Return to Normal exhibit!

Explore the exhibit, and listen to interviews from the students and artists involved.

Virtual Tour
Check out the final report and the exhibit's impact

Read more about the impact and lessons we learned from the partnership and exhibit.

Final Report
Read the press release!

See the press release for the Return to Normal project

Press release