April 1st, 2020

by Anna White & Alia Wilhelm · Collage by Alia Wilhelm


Dear friends,


We hope you are all staying safe during this strange and painful period in our collective history. Today we are launching Nearness to gather the various responses to the changes brought on by COVID-19. We have been thinking about how physical interactions are limited at this moment in time and how, as a result, many of us are seeking to occupy other kinds of closeness, or “nearness,” be it through online communities or more tangible practices. This is a community where we can share and seek inspiration from each other’s experiences. 


In times of grief it is not easy to remain grateful or reflective. It is also not easy to prioritise art and self-expression when suffering is part of the daily mix, though creation can offer so much in the way of comfort. We want Nearness to be a space that encourages self-reflection, open conversations about mental health and a rare and real opportunity to slow down and process what is happening around us. Something akin to group art therapy. 


Anna: “Nearness” is a word that has been on the tip of my brain for months - a friend and collaborator brought it to me back in January as the title of an unfinished song, and the word initially resonated with me in the context of long-distance collaboration and far away friendships. I’m accustomed to remote collaboration, but now that even friends within the same city feel just as distant as those across the country, I’ve found myself yearning for the connection that can come easily when physically close. For me, creating Nearness is a way to remember that we are all a part of a community, and that we can gain strength through collective vulnerability.


Alia: Without a daily schedule or weekly structure imposed on me, I’ve found it hard to balance the anxious excess energy with a lack of motivation that comes from not knowing when this period is going to end. Part of me feels guilty not to be living at the same fast pace that I have always considered normal. It’s hard to slow down without feeling bad, but it’s just as difficult not to feel bad about feeling bad, especially when there are people out there who are having a much harder time. The desire to create something like Nearness comes from the feeling of being caught in limbo and feeling torn in different directions, without a clear destination in mind.


Beautiful and thoughtful work about what’s going on in the world right now feels necessary, and we would love for you to be a part of that. Nearness will exist as a web platform and Instagram account, and eventually as a print publication, too. We’ll include work from people all over the world, in the form of shared playlists, illustrations, personal essays, movie lists, printable collage kits and comics. Please check out our submissions page to see how you can contribute. 


We have included a collage kit here for you to print and cut out, so that you can make some artwork from home. We would love for you to share your creations with us by email at hello@nearnessproject.com and also by tagging us on Instagram @nearnessproject.


Sending you lots of love,


Anna & Alia