Jason Rapp

Friday feel-good post: ‘Together While Apart’

Seabrook Island artist spans coasts with project


Deane Bowers set out to spread a positive message to fight prevailing “negativity, divisiveness, loss, and pessimism” running rampant with what she does best: making art.

Deane Bowers, dressed in a white top with green scarf, holds a piece of art resembling the U.S. flag.

Deane Bowers (provided photo)

The Seabrook Island artist (right) says it best: “I decided I needed to find a way to bring people together, even if it was only a small one. I thought that if I could gather people, even people physically separated, to work towards something bigger than ourselves, that collectively we might find joy, fellowship and fun-and we could make a difference. I wanted to be a part of the solution, to offer something positive to a hurting world.”

So Bowers put out an open call for art on social media and used some personal contacts. Artists of diverse backgrounds and locations, 19 in all from eight states, were culled to lend their talents to a collective large piece.

Thus, Together While Apart was born, a group of artists coming together amidst pandemic conditions with the collective wish to combat isolation, loneliness, and unhappiness during an unsettled time. Health worries, economic insecurity, racial strife—we’re all aware.


The creative process

Much of Bowers’ art comes from repurposed items, and the only art supplies she had in abundance at the time were recycled shipping boxes: a certain sign of the times and familiar refrain from most of us in the early days of lockdowns and restrictions.

“I sent each artist several 6” x 6” square pieces of cut cardboard from these recycled boxes with one simple instruction: think outside of the box! My goal was that through the creative process, each artist would find an outlet for his or her feelings and eventually these emotions would transform into joy. Ultimately, our collective joys would be multiplied and shared with many others through our artwork,” she said.

“As the weeks passed, and I started receiving the squares back, I was repeatedly amazed by the imagination, talent and effort that each artist put forth in their cardboard. The result was so much more than I could ever imagine. The creative energy of the group was palpable, and our pieces seem to flow together with beautiful synergy. It was my honor to be the artist who pieced the squares together … What started as discarded cardboard boxes stacked in my garage, ended as an incredible artistic collage of many beautiful souls who poured themselves into their work…”

BONUS CONTENT: Bowers in her own words on the project, with pieces and their artists identified (YouTube)

The artists

  • Deane Bowers (Seabrook Island, South Carolina)
  • Liz Brent (Chicago)
  • Sandy Buffie (Washington)
  • Nikki Contini (San Rafael, California)
  • Will Cooke with Jennifer Mildonian and Marcelle VanYahres (Charlottesville, Virginia)
  • Lynette Driver (Brevard, North Carolina)
  • Celie Gehring (Richmond, Virginia)
  • Lynn Karegeannes (Asheville, North Carolina)
  • Cathy Kleiman (Charleston)
  • Dayo Johnson (Nashville)
  • Amy Lauria (Painesville, Ohio)
  • Rachel McLaughlin (Charlottesville, Virginia)
  • Debbie Pompano (Hanover, Virginia)
  • Rebecca Potts (Los Angeles)
  • Frankie Slaughter (Richmond, Virginia)
  • Jim Weaver (Florence, Alabama)
  • Cindy Webb (Statesville, North Carolina)

Where is it now?

“The biggest thrill is that Together While Apart is featured on the Smithsonian’s “Stories of 2020” online exhibit,” Bowers said.

The finished work is scheduled to be reviewed by the art review boards at both Cedars- Sinai Hospital in L.A. and McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina. A large hospital in Richmond, Virginia is requesting to display it “for however long they can have it” and the Hickory Museum of Art has offered a six-month exhibit.

And then? Bowers intends to gift to a non-profit or medical facility whose mission resonates with the group. They hope it inspires feelings of the love, warmth, and optimism that went into its creation.

Together While Apart (2020). Click image to enlarge.


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