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Feb 29, 2024

Music, Art, Emotion, and Empathy During the Pandemic (video)

Kids in Brazil remind us how human connection and creative expression set the stage for flourishing even in uncertain times.


By Templeton Staff with Usina da Imaginação

For more than 20 years, Usina da Imaginação has been accompanying children and families at the margins of society to tell their stories and produce audiovisual media with them.

Usina da Imaginação also conducts studies, offers communications training, and works with campaigns and advocacy in favor of early childhood, aiming to influence public policy and promote human flourishing. Researchers Rita de Cácia Oenning da Silva and Kurt Shaw are its co-founding Executive directors, with a supporting team spread across Brazil.

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Kids in Brazil remind us how human connection and creative expression set the stage for flourishing even in uncertain times. Video: Inspiração: Arte em tempos de pandemia / Usina da Imaginação;  (The cc button on the bottom right of the video player reveals English subtitles.)
 

In mid-2019, Usina da Imaginação was awarded a TWCF grant to carry out a proposed social experiment designed to explore whether and how participatory filmmaking cultivates empathy among children across socio-economic divides.

When the pandemic struck, everything changed. Quarantines stalled or prevented real life gatherings, and opportunities for many of the social interactions essential to child development were hindered during this time of uncertainty and isolation. In response, the team was able to adapt and expand the social experiment originally designed to take place in person into a multi-phase participatory online project.

The researchers wanted to understand how children were experiencing life during quarantine, and thought “who better to ask than the children themselves?” For this phase of the project, titled Inspiração: Arte em tempos de pandemia, the team facilitated virtual meetings between children and adults to provide space for a collective creation of music, painting, sculpture, and conceptual art. To amplify the participants’ voices, speech was encouraged through interviews with the children and also through other forms of expression such as letters and drawings.

Watch the full Inspiração video with the above player.

Two other phases make up the project. One involved asking the children to imagine their dream city, and propose these visions to the city council. Another phase was based on the success of Usina da Imaginação’s 2016 The Other Side of the Other project. With this phase, fictional films became a vehicle for children and teens to put themselves in the place of a young person from a different socio-economic background than their own.

The results of the entire project include paintings and songs, and more than 40 films in the form of multiple short interviews with children about empathy and social change, music videos, and 2 pieces of filmed fiction. 

We’re pleased to share a few selections from Inspiração: Arte em tempos de pandemia, that highlight music and emotion’s role in empathy.

Watch these short video interviews below to hear the musicians share what it means to compose and record music during the pandemic, and how this practice connects them with others in spite of the quarantine.

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Above: Alois, whose music is featured in this video, speaks about music and empathy, and his experience during quarantine. "It's a form of relief to know that someone else is going through what you are," he says. (The cc button on the bottom right of the video player reveals English subtitles.)

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Above: When she writes songs and creates music, Eliz says she's not just thinking of her own situation, but "also what so many other people are facing." She shares, "when I identify with an artist, it isn't just because they're expressing their own feelings, it's because many other people feel that feeling. During the pandemic the whole world was feeling the same thing." Play the video for more insights from Eliz, and to hear her song. (The cc button on the bottom right of the video player reveals English subtitles.)

The following two music videos feature songs written and performed by children and teenagers participating in the project. The themes express the solitude, loss, and also hope experienced during the pandemic. 

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Above: Novo Futuro (New Future) by Liam Ramsey reflects on loss. (The cc button on the bottom right of the video player reveals English subtitles.)

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Above: Mar de Liberdade (Sea of Freedom) by Helê Iara is about the experience of a 10-year-old girl during the pandemic. (The cc button on the bottom right of the video player reveals English subtitles.)

Art, Solitude, and Solidarity

A second series of videos draws attention to how visual arts serve as a route to elaborate and express the emotions of solitude and loss, while at the same time inspiring adults and other kids to express care. Watch two select shorts featuring children discussing their experience with visual arts.

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Above: For Lorena, art was the way to survive the pandemic. Even without friends there in person and the laughter that comes with that, she can still mix paints and create new paintings. (The cc button on the bottom right of the video player reveals English subtitles.)

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Above: Isa talks about her anguish and anxiety during the pandemic, but also how painting and storytelling gives her the strength to continue. (The cc button on the bottom right of the video player reveals English subtitles.)

A few other phases make up the project. One involved asking the children to imagine their dream city, and propose these visions to the city council. The results of the entire project include paintings and songs, and more than 40 films also including 2 pieces of filmed fiction.