8 to Create has long been one of my favorite spring arts events. I love the energy of the artists at work and the audience as they enjoy a front-row seat to the process. I love the merging of town and gown, community and university. 2020 shuttered the event before it opened, although a nicely filmed walkthrough is available on YouTube. Like so many other beloved events, it left us hoping for a return in 2021. And yes, 8 to Create is returning on March 27th, and while it's virtual format may not have the same live energy, it does, on the upside, expand the event's reach beyond the walls of the Link Gallery. Curious to learn more about what the 2021 event would look and feel like, I reached out to Caroline Wuerl, 8 to Create's president. I hope our conversation inspires you to experience the event yourself on Saturday. 


Smile Politely: As students, how have you and the other 8 to Create committee members been managing this past year? As visual artists, what was it like to study and work remotely?

Caroline Wuerl: Personally, having classes and 8 to Create meetings virtually presents many different challenges and opportunities. I really miss the in-person interaction with my professors and classmates. However, all of our professors have been very accommodating to the new work structure. Many of our classes have guest speakers from all over the country, and this would not be possible without the virtual structure. We have found creative ways for all members of the 8 to Create committee to interact virtually, such as having ice-breakers at the beginning of each meeting or even playing Scattergories together online at the end of our meetings. This has created a sense of community even though we are not meeting in-person.

SP: What can viewers expect from the March 27th event? What will we be watching?

Wuerl: We are hosting our 6th Annual Live Art Show virtually on March 27th from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. We have eight participating artists including Kofi Bazzell-Smith, Keenan Dailey, Michael Darin, Nikki Kelsay, Jihee Lee, Claire Molenda, Jason Rackow, and Lydia Puddicombe. Our show will be broadcast on a livestream through our YouTube channel, @8 to create. This year, we will have four artists on screen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m,, and the other four artists on screen from\ 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. All of the artists will be creating a piece of artwork live during the event while interacting with the audience.

Image of 8 to Create poster. Image courtesy of 8 to Create.
Image of 8 to Create poster. Image courtesy of 8 to Create.

SP: I know that one of the core components of your missions in community engagement. Will you be using technology to create interaction in lieu of in-person participation?

Wuerl: In lieu of in-person participation, the audience can observe the art-making process and ask questions in the chat box on YouTube. The 8 to Create committee will monitor the chat box and facilitate the discussion between the artists. This will be a successful way for the audience to be involved with the discussion of the art-making process.

SP: Obviously, the pandemic has caused you all to reimagine and recalibrate the event. But sometimes that can be a good thing, especially for creatives. Were there any "good surprises" that happened along the way?

Wuerl: Yes, there were many good surprises that happened along the way! Most importantly, since the event is virtual, this allows people from any location to attend the art show. In the past, only people who live nearby or could travel to Champaign would be able attend the show, so it is refreshing to know that we have the potential to reach even more people now that it’s streamed virtually. 

SP: For me, it feels really important that this event takes place in whatever way it. can. We really need art to help lift us up after the past year. And also to help us process what we've been through. What does it represent for 8 to Create and/or for you personally?

Wuerl: 8 to Create’s mission is to make the typically private process of creating artwork accessible and open to the public for observation, engagement, and participation. Also, our mission is to break down institutional and social hierarchies by bringing together a mix of artists from a variety of experiences and affiliations in one creative space. It has been such an honor to be a part of this organization since my freshman year, because I have seen the immense impact art can have on people. The fact that we can continue our event virtually is so valuable because it means that art can still be shared with an audience, and there will continue to be discussions about the art. Each artist comes from a different background and has unique life experiences, and to see this translated in their artwork and inquire about it is such an enticing experience. 

SP: Do you know if any of the participating artists will be tackling COVID as their subject?

Wuerl: Yes, one of the artists is planning on creating a piece that represents emergence into life post-COVID.

SP: What are you most excited for people to experience this year?

Wuerl: I’m most excited for people to experience the wide range of artistic talent that will be on display at the event. At the event, Keenan Dailey will be creating a digital illustration, Kofi Bazzell-Smith will be creating a manga page on a glass drafting table, and Michael Darin will be creating a sculpture from repurposed materials. It will be so exciting for the audience to see how the artists go about creating their art and what their process is like.

SP: What has been the best part of putting the event together? What has been the most challenging?

Wuerl: The best parts of putting the event together have been corresponding with the artists and the committee members throughout the entire process. Every committee member on the team is so passionate about our organization’s purpose, and we all strive to ensure that the virtual show will be just as exciting as a live, in-person event. The most challenging part of putting the event together has been navigating the best way to virtually host the show. Technology presents new and different challenges, but our committee has worked tirelessly throughout the year to ensure that the event will run as smoothly as possible.

SP: How will viewers be able to access and/or participate in the event?

Wuerl: Viewers will be able to access the event through our YouTube page, @8 to create.

SP: Will it be a one-time live stream or will it be recorded for additional viewing afterward?

Wuerl: The livestream will be saved to our YouTube channel so viewers can access it after the event has ended.

8 to Create 2021
March 27th, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Free and online

Learn more about 8 to Create on their website, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about this year's artists and their work.

Top image from 8 to Create's Facebook page.