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Jerry Russo Oral History Collection

Not The Same Old Artist’s Talks: The Jerry Russo Oral History Collection

Though it may not be top of mind for most people, the way we collect oral history is one of the many things that changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As COVID disrupted old ways of doing things and people figured out how to leverage technology in support of business, medical care, and education, the documentary filmmaker and photographer Jerry Russo recognized how the same technology could also connect us to each other during this profoundly isolating moment. In March of 2020, amid the first days of the quarantine lockdown, Russo began interviewing visual artists and other creative people around the globe using Zoom to capture their conversations. This would continue for the next two years, with the artists sharing their thoughts on how the pandemic affected their lives and their work, including its impact on their creative process, as well as matters of social and cultural import, like the Black Lives movement.

Upon the conclusion of his oral history project, Jerry Russo sought out a place where this unique collection would be preserved and made accessible to any scholars of the creative process, as well as practicing artists interested in the ways material reality shapes the expression of craft, and anyone who is curious about how artists experienced the challenges of the pandemic. The Robert S. Cox Special Collections and University Archives Research Center (SCUA), with its rich collections focused on social change, was the ideal place to receive Russo’s oral histories, and by scanning the adjacent QR code with your phone, you will be able to access the collection in Credo, SCUA’s online repository.

“The stories from these creators are compelling on their own; taken together, we have the opportunity to see and understand how they represent a shift in consciousness around how we record both the process of creating and the process of connecting in an uncertain time,” notes Adam Ware, Associate Dean for Special Collections and University Archives. “Also, the fact that so many of these artists participated in these conversations from their studios lends a real sense of immediacy and intimacy to these discussions of life and work during a time when both of those things felt very fragile for so many of us. It’s an incredible collection, one we’re grateful to have been trusted with.”

Listen to the histories: