Rochester Institute of Technology students this fall will have a creative outlet to help them reflect on their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic by producing comics and visual arts narratives.
Kriota Willberg, a comic artist and illustrator based in New York City, will teach Graphic Medicine, a three-credit online workshop offered by the School of Individualized Study and Center for Engaged Storycraft in the College of Liberal Arts.
“Everyone, regardless of who they are, has stories to tell about their fear of infection, coping with social distancing, the loss of family and friends, witnessing prejudice or racism, seeking health care, loss of work, changing relationships, fluctuating mental and physical states, hope for treatment or vaccine, and more,” Willberg said. “All of these stories qualify as graphic medicine.”
The workshop will explore the history of visual arts and drawing graphic narratives as a way artists can resonate with epidemics. Willberg said pandemics caused similar patterns of disruption over the centuries and graphic medicine — comics about health, health justice, illness, medicine, health care, the mind and body — is an emerging area of comics that is relevant to all of us at this time.
“We will explore contemporary and historical graphic narratives about epidemics and pandemics, and practice making our own narratives using text and images,” she said. “We will be creating diary, educational and fictional comics, and other types of image-based stories.”
Students in the workshop must have competency in basic drawing techniques. It is recommended for students studying art and design, illustration, animation or medical illustration.
“I truly wish that COVID-19 was not ravaging the world, but our struggle with this virus gives us an opportunity to reflect, engage and grow by helping us understand our experiences, giving us empathy for others, arguing for justice and engaging with the world and one another in new and meaningful ways,” Willberg said. “Making graphic medicine can facilitate that growth.”
Willberg visited RIT last year to lead workshops with students from the English, performing arts and visual culture, and medical illustration departments. She participated in “Stories of Health Care from the Field,” a lecture series organized by the Center for Engaged Storycraft.
The Center will offer two, one-credit storycraft workshops in the fall. One is about telling the story of addiction and recovery, and the other focuses on making virtual reality experiences.