OATK12 Online Exhibition

"The Great Epic Pandemic Journal Project"

Collective of Art Teachers COVID-19 Representations

How would art teachers depict the COVID-19 pandemic in their visual journaling? What pandemic personal and professional experiences affected art teachers in 2020? If art teachers wanted to visually preserve pandemic experiences, what would those visual representations look like?

These questions were at the root of a call for art journal pages by Online Art Teachers (K-12). In unprecedented times and as social distancing began, OATK12 launched a creative challenge as this collaborative of art teachers worked together and supported each other in their heroic task of suddenly shifting and pivoting to remote and hybrid instruction.

We invited OATK12 art teachers to create journal works that depicted their personal and professional thoughts, emotions, and concerns as the pandemic unfolded in 2020. The resulting submissions revealed profound and emotional talent that bore witness to the incredible potential of art and its impact on teachers, students, schools, communities, and teachers as people.

We are honored to share thirty of the entries in this call for journal works. The artist-teachers’ visual depiction of 2020’s beginning of the pandemic moves us with great emotion and preserves our experiences for history.

The Great Epic Pandemic Journal Project, 2020


The artist was excited to journal and felt the need to document life during the pandemic’s momentous shift in human existence, a new era in history. So, the artist anxiously created this title page for her journal.

Charlotte Broussard, Vermilion Parish School District, Louisiana

So Much on the Mind, 2020

Digital Drawing, Procreate, iPad

From never-ending Zoom calls, to mask-safety, to trying to find the motivation to create art, this self-portrait represents the artist's inner turmoil during the time of COVID-19.

Dr. Sarah Ackermann, Ball State University, Indiana

Student Under Pressure, 2020

Digital Paint, iPad, Procreate

This digital sketchbook page was created in response to the looming pressures imposed upon K-12 students during the time of COVID-19 social distancing. The artist used an Apple iPad and Procreate to create this layered piece.

Dr. Sarah Ackermann, Ball State University, Indiana

Teacher Under Pressure, 2020

Digital Art, iPad, Procreate

This digital sketchbook page was created in response to the looming pressures of teacher-practitioners during the time of COVID-19 social distancing. The artist used an Apple iPad and Procreate to create this layered piece.

Dr. Sarah Ackermann, Ball State University, Indiana

Can't Sleep, 2020

Sharpie S-Gel Pen 1.0

In this drawing, the artist was attempting to release some of the things that were preventing her from getting sleep. Isolating alone and working from home, it was hard to turn her brain off.

Tami Brown, Chase Middle School, Washington

First Zoom, 2020


This page is an illustration of the first Zoom meeting with the artist's middle schoolers. We didn’t yet know how to use Zoom. The teacher just wanted to see her students so badly.

Jennifer Fuller, Roosevelt International Middle School, California

Minneapolis, 2020


We were already seeing COVID-19 disproportionately affect Black Americans, and the death of George Floyd on video made visible the racism in America. In the midst of the pandemic, people all over the world took to the streets in protest.

Jennifer Fuller, Roosevelt International Middle School, California

Blind Self, 2020

#1 - Mixed Media: paper mache, plastic, acrylic, craft items. #2 - Duct Tape, watercolor, and ink.

It looks cartoony because it was not taken seriously at first. The artist felt the juxtaposition would invite people to open it and then learn about the dark journey through 2020.

Eric Gibbons, Vernon Malone College & Career Academy, North Carolina

Survive/Thrive, 2020

Opaque Watercolor & Pen

Teachers felt a range of emotion as they were called to a new form of instructional delivery during the spring of 2020. Surviving and thriving with passion and compassion, and a new style of teaching, was teachers’ struggle. While pandemic teaching may become their desired new normal, a spirit of camaraderie elevated teachers together to survive. One such effort was the creation of the Online Art Teachers (K-12) Facebook Group, a service project by art teachers for art teachers during uncertain times, and their efforts to advocate for art education and art teachers during 2020 education.

Dr. Trina Harlow, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas

Disintegrating Civilization, 2020

Opaque Water Color, Pen

Groenewold (2004) writes of civilization that disintegrates and what that looks like. 2020, with all of its many challenges – the pandemic, racial issues, riots, and a wildly opinionated presidential election – uniquely merged the challenges of the outside world within the virtual classroom. The challenges were real. They were felt. They numbed us. They inflamed us. Yet, education went on . . .as civilization disintegrated into a vast human virus of opinion, emotion, and physicality.

Dr. Trina Harlow, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas

The Mask, 2020

Opaque Water Color, Acrylic, Pen

2020 is synonymous with THE MASK. Will school students have something like post-traumatic stress disorder because of COVID19? Will schools ever be the same? Will we as a society be afraid to come out from behind our masks? Will schools ever be the same? Teachers who taught within their building with students in their classrooms were traumatized – many of them – by enforcing the proper wearing of masks, of sanitizing and washing hands . . . they were traumatized by their students’ breath.

Dr. Trina Harlow, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas

Our Poor World, 2020

Opaque Water Color, Markers

The Coronavirus 2019. That is all one needs to say. It choked us. It choked education. While we gasped for metaphorical or real air, education fought back and held its ground. Barely.

Dr. Trina Harlow, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas

Grocery Hoarding & Trash Art, 2020

Multi Media, Trash Weaving, Pen, Opaque Watercolor

Stocking up! Stocking up! In 2020, we stocked up on toilet paper, canned food, water, medicine, and things that would not perish rapidly. The, in art education, we made art from those things. Andy Warhol is well known for his Campbell soup art and his work inspired this paper weaving of can labels, including Campbell soup labels. Art teachers did not waste anything during 2020 and we asked our students to think outside of the norms of what art supplies might have been pre-pandemic.

Dr. Trina Harlow, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas

The Nightmare of Education, 2020

Opaque Watercolor, Pen

Yes, in 2020 education seemed like a nightmare that we would all wake up from. Life seemed like a nightmare. It seemed like an old episode of Twilight Zone, except it was not a science fiction television show or a nightmare, it was real. Education faced many challenges. We felt so many things all at once – shock, science fiction, numbness, nightmares, and we were afraid to cough. We Zoomed with our students who did not have to wear masks, but they were silent. We taught face to face or in person with our students, who did have to wear masks, and they were silent. The world was silent.

Dr. Trina Harlow, University of Central Arkansas, Arkansas

Pensive & Isolated, 2020

Disposable Mask, Marker, India Ink, Gel Pen, Acrylic

The journal entry depicts how the artist felt like an exploring astronaut while being treated for coronavirus. The artist's phone was her way to connect to the world while quarantined. The medicine was to mask the symptoms. The artist was tethered to the reality of uncertainty.

Caitlin Johns, Samuel P. Massie Academy, Maryland

Pandemic Pandemonium, 2020

Digital Collage & Sketching, iPad

This is a compilation of the artist's "artedportraits" and the unraveling search for toilet paper that left us all flushed. The artist was reminded by her 92 year old mother that “this too shall pass.”

Holly Bess Kincaid, Skyline Middle School, Virginia

COVID Questions, 2020

Watercolor, Acrylic, Pencils

This journal page represents all the questions the artist had at the beginning of the pandemic and still had ten months later.

Kate Miller, Hiawatha Elementary School, Kansas

Mask of Death, 2020

Colored Pencil

When thinking about the loss that was happening and how much more was to come, one couldn’t help but think of the Grim Reaper. So much controversy existed regarding wearing masks in the USA, but watching global happenings and listening to experts, masks seemed the way to go. The artist was wearing her mask and thought that even death would be wise enough to be cautious in a pandemic, and that said something to her.

Kate Miller, Hiawatha Elementary School, Kansas

Dr. Fauci: Patron Saint of COVID-19, 2020

Water Color, Acrylic

The page was created in response to the early coverage of covid-10. The artist saw Dr. Fauci as the light in the darkness, the calm in the storm, the miracle worker trying to bring grace, calm and facts to the conversation at the White House. The artist is drawn to symbolism and used it here in a stereotypical Saint pose, robes the color of scrubs, holding a book with St. Luke’s symbolism, the aureole, a glowing COVID-19 cell to give a bit of divinity but also to show the gravity of the crisis.

Kate Miller, Hiawatha Elementary School, Kansas

As More and More Lives are Lost, 2020

Digital Art, Google Draw

I have found new worry lines in photos of me as the pandemic continues. This was my exploration of how overwhelming the news of so many deaths continues to be.

Dr. Jane Montero, Creekside Intermediate School, Michigan

Where We Once Had Smiles, 2020

Digital Art, Google Draw

The artist compared photos of herself prior to the pandemic vs how she looked wearing a mask. Joy is hidden, and tears prevail. This was the artist's exploration of the closed way we inhabit our world now.

Dr. Jane Montero, Creekside Intermediate School, Michigan

Self Portrait with Symbolic Self-Portrait Mask, 2020

Colored Pencil

This journal page shows a basic “head shot” self-portrait, with an added twist. Since we wore masks in 2020 and our identity was hidden, the mask is a symbolic self-portrait that showed who the artist was on the inside.

Janis Nunnally, Upperman Middle School, Tennessee

Nature Will Win, 2020

Watercolor, Sumi Ink, Hand Sanitizer

This drawing was made when the fires in California were getting really bad, also during the 2020 pandemic. It’s a comment about climate change.

Melissa Olds, Centerville Elementary School, Maryland

Spread Love Like a Virus, 2020

Watercolor, Sumi Ink, Hand Sanitizer

Like a Virus: The artist created this drawing during the week of the George Floyd protests in the United States. The artist was mourning like the rest of the country and wanted to create a positive image in response. The person is surrounded by dandelions spreading, wishing to spread love as freely as the virus was spreading.

Melissa Olds, Centerville Elementary School, Maryland

Captain Hand Sanitizer, 2020

Digital Art

This graphic image was created in response to images the artist's school was looking for on Super Hero Day in April 2020. As the artist's school was teaching and learning remotely, photos were submitted to celebrate Super Hero Day.

Bob Reeker

Artist Angels: Dali Almost Said . . . , 2020

Sharpie Marker

Artists often serve as inspiration for others. For teacher appreciation week, the artist created a different Artist Angel each day, each focusing on a specific idea, and shared with OATK12. On this day the artist/word was inspiration.

Randy Robart, Rittman Exempted Village Schools, Ohio

What a Day!, 2020

Sharpie Marker

This page reflects the artist's experiences and thoughts at school on March 13, 2020 when teachers were told they would not be returning to school for the next three weeks and would instead be teaching remotely. It was panic, stress and “How do I teach art remotely” all rolled into one.

Randy Robart, Rittman Exempted Village Schools, Ohio

School: Swimming with the Current, 2020

Sharpie Marker

A reflection on teacher stress. Randy Robart's Incredibly detailed Sharpie drawing was selected to be the banner exhibit for this virtual exhibition. His depiction of teachers swimming with the current of virtual teaching captured the essence of the many feelings of art teachers and all of education during the summer of 2020.

Randy Robart, Rittman Exempted Village Schools, Ohio

Six Words, 2020

Sharpie Marker, Acrylic

This page reflects OATK12 comments to a question posed in a Facebook post by Dr. Trina Harlow in which she asked group members to describe teaching in a pandemic in six words. Comments reflect frustration, sadness, and laughter, and in the artist's opinion, were all valid.

Randy Robart, Rittman Exempted Village Schools, Ohio

Once Upon a World, 2020

Acrylic, Watercolor, Markers, Colored Pencil

2020 was full of change for the whole world. The world has always had its challenges, but 2020 brought issues that reached into our core and made us find courage. 2020 made us figure out who we were and how to survive – both from our world, the virus, and from our physical selves and our emotional selves. One thing that stood out to the artist about the virus is that no matter your race, ethnicity, religion, creed, education level, or financial situation, COVID19 affected you. Equity was achieved in the most unexpected way. Once Upon a World is the artist's representation of the hundreds of thousands of things going around the world and how the artist processed this personally and professionally as a teacher.

Marie Taylor, Maize High School, Kansas