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Ashleigh Smith ’20: “Creating is Healing”

Published By Ashleigh Smith / published on: April 22, 2020

Ashleigh Smith, Nasher intern and Duke Class of 2020, was excited to organize a small exhibition at the Nasher Museum this spring. When the museum temporarily closed, she converted the installation to a multimedia online project, which includes a Spotify playlist and podcast episode. An extension of her senior thesis, the project is the product of two years of research.

This spring, I was working at the Nasher Museum of Art in preparation for my exhibition at the academic focus gallery. Due to COVID-19, the physical show was cancelled, but I’ve been working with the Nasher to transfer my project to an online platform: Dreams of Defiance: Black Feminist Fantasy and the Direct Gaze. It’s a new experience but I’m excited at the opportunity to share my project with people and find new and creative ways to do so.

For the museum field, the coronavirus has been especially disruptive to exhibition schedules, public programs, and for the amazing staff who love working and collaborating with each other. I think this may have lasting impacts on the way people engage with museums (for example, lower capacities in galleries) but it may also increase people’s desire to engage with art.

Creating is healing. Taking time to create together or in solitude is an important bridge to healing and happiness in hard times.

People will always need art and they’ll always need it up close. People will also always need community and museums serve as incredible rich places for communities to connect, learn together, and grow together.

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