Quarantine Collaboration Provides an Opening to Creativity, Mindfulness, and Connection

The collaboration between Jane Hilberry, CC professor of Creativity and Innovation, and Colorado Springs resident Sam Stephenson began with a question.

When locals began socially isolating in mid-March, Stephenson, who organizes “Converge,” a Colorado Springs lecture series designed to bring people together for author visits and post-lecture conversations, had an idea. He wanted to create boxes filled with writing exercises, says Hilberry, “to engage people during this time that everybody was stuck at home … to not see those times at home as just something to get through, but also to see it as a time when it’s possible to actually deepen your connections with your family or whoever your immediate community is.”

Stephenson called Hilberry and asked, “Do you have exercises?”

Hilberry laughs as she recalls the conversation. “I love a good exercise. I’m always collecting them, always refining them, always trying to figure out what really works for different kinds of audiences and occasions.”

So the two created a booklet guide with five days of exercises. Each day included a morning mindfulness activity, Hilberry explains, “for anybody in the household who was able to sit still for 10 minutes”; an exercise for midday that was designed for kids age 4 and older as well as adults and could be completed in family groups; and an evening exercise specifically for grown-ups.

They then put together “Converge Quarantine Boxes” that contained all the materials needed to do the exercises. For example, they included small wooden blocks and papers with different designs on them. Each person doing this particular activity cuts out images from the papers or other magazines from around their home, and glues different elements on each of the six sides of the wooden block based on the guide’s instructions.

“This is very fun and satisfying and it expresses something about you depending on what you choose,” says Hilberry.

Initially, Stephenson received a grant to make 40 boxes and give them away to families in the community. But since then, more have been distributed to local high school teachers and programs, and families across the country. They’re also available for purchase through Converge’s website.

“We all need a little extra bolstering right now,” Hilberry says. “Doing something creative is… I want to say it’s inherently optimistic? When you make something, you’re investing in yourself. It’s a way of saying, ‘Yeah, we’re moving forward.’ And I think there’s just something so satisfying about physically making something with your own hands; there’s something just joyful about it.”

Two other pieces just as important as accessing creativity right now though, says Hilberry, are mindfulness — which helps bring us into the present, reduce anxiety, and enhance the level of joy in our lives — and connection.

“In a time of social isolation, finding ways to really connect deeply with the people who are meaningful to you, it’s just really important. Whether you’re living with those people in the same household, or whether you’re spread out and trying to connect over Zoom, either way, doing something creative together can actually foster that connection and deeper discovery of people who you already think you know well.”