Connecting Community in Virtual Space

Changemaker Catalyst Award recipient, ,Julia Rose worked to help organize the Virtual Exuberance Healing and Arts Festival. The intention of the festival was to provide wellness resources to the New Orleans community during to the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic and beyond. Julia is a senior who studies Environmental Studies with minors in Business and Public Health.

In the face of the unknown, comes an opportunity for creativity and the experience of something new. The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic has presented unknown circumstances on individual, community, and societal levels. These unknown circumstances call for adaptation and problem-solving during a period of uncertainty and difficulty for many.

I am grateful to have been asked to join the efforts of friends in stepping into our creativity to organize an experience that we hoped would shine at least a little bit more light into the lives of others. The experience we hoped to organize was the Virtual Exuberance Festival where participants could explore the online portal of wellness and arts resources. Core team members including Sam Levy, Alex Levy, Kris Hansen, and founder, Hannah Pellouchoud, helped build the foundation of Exuberance through the previous year’s in-person Exuberance Festival that hosted over 30 workshops and performance and over 200 participants. This year, Sam, Alex, and Kris would focus on finance, tech, and community outreach/promotion respectively. My dear friend, Lila Pell, and I were added to the team as project assistants to help in the navigating, learning, and organizing for the new digital platform.

The Virtual Exuberance Festival would focus around interactive workshops, classes, discussions, and performances based in six main modalities including emotional skill building, plant wisdom, movement, meditation, social justice, and creative expression. We would also create a community board, campfire zoom chat, and local art marketplace, hoping to strengthen community connections that could last beyond the festival. Organizing these resources was especially important to us because the community was experiencing heightened stressors while many of the usual resources for self-care were no longer available.

Over the course of a month, the Exuberance team went hard and happily to work. The process consisted of many hours of Zoom meetings, phone calls, and communication over group messages. Collectively we brainstormed all of our local connections and how we could make a big web of people working together for the community’s wellbeing. We launched a crowdfunding campaign, applied for grants, and reached out to potential sponsors. We organized the schedule of teachers and artists and the logistics for the production of it all. My role as project assistant was an awesome learning experience because I was exposed to different areas of work and got a cohesive sense of what the team members were working on and how we could work together. Some of my main tasks included searching and helping apply for funding, brainstorming promotion ideas and helping with social media, communicating with community partners, and sharing ideas about the vision for the festival. All was done with the help and guidance of many community members along the way, collaborating with ideas, knowledge, and resources to bring the two-weekend wellness and arts festival into existence.

The window where Exuberance workshops were streamed through!

From working on Exuberance, I have received some very celebrated inspirations and reminders. One of my greatest sources of inspiration is the empowerment that came from doing something new and learning how to to bring an idea of the imagination into existence.  Starting to work on Exuberance, it felt kind of surreal that I had the opportunity to contribute to a project working to connect many beautiful people and resources. But I’m starting to remind myself more and more: my power can only be as great as I can imagine.

However, the second part of this piece of inspiration is essential. The second part being, that teamwork is essential and that the Virtual Exuberance Festival would not be possible without the overwhelming generosity and support from the community. Working on Exuberance has taught me to call on friends and role models and that it never hurts (and almost always helps) to ask.

Lastly, I was reminded the importance of being satisified with trying my best, despite the outcome. To become comfortable with this, helped me have less fear when learning more about working in the digital realm.

The landing page before participants log in to their profile.

I understand that these few learnings and inspirations that I’ve shared are not new ideas to many and that others have likely heard and experienced them in diverse ways. I write them out to serve as a reminder to myself and others of their truth and pervasiveness. I hope that superhumans feel empowered to come into their full potential and band together to bring more peace and wellbeing to all. I extend a huge thank you to the Taylor Center for believing in the learning potential of this opportunity.