#MyPandemicStory is the ROM’s first crowd-sourced exhibition that features artwork by children (ages 4-18) who were asked to submit pieces that reflected their experiences with COVID-19. 

The call for submissions was put out last April, and the response was overwhelming. The ROM received over 2300 art pieces from kids living all over Ontario. The assortment of work arrived in a wonderful variety of mediums, including painting, drawing, film, song, and even a Barbie was sent in, the doll dressed as a healthcare worker in PPE, a piece that the young artist titled “Essential Barbie.” 

STOP ASIAN HATE by Melody, of Toronto, Age 14.

It wasn’t easy to choose which art to include in the #MyPandemicStory exhibit, but Museum curators, along with an external committee, selected 60 pieces that reflect a wide range of emotions and experiences, as captured by different age groups.

INTROSPECTION by Ava-Udeane of Toronto, Age 18. “This pandemic has encouraged me to look within, and I have proven to be stronger than I thought.”

The work provides numerous opportunities for families to engage in meaningful conversations about the various challenges that life has presented over the past 18 months. To help nurture these conversations, the ROM has created seating spaces with support material to offer opportunities for visitors to rest and reflect. They’ve also created a response station that invites visitors to share their own responses to the pandemic and contribute to an ongoing conversation in the exhibition.

ESSENTIAL BARBIE by Kelia of Stoney Creek, Age 8. “I was inspired by my mom, who is a Registered Nurse.”

“This isn’t an art exhibition in the traditional sense,” emphasizes Justin Jennings, ROM Senior Curator of Archaeology of the Americas and curator of the #MyPandemicStory exhibition. “It’s about showcasing the art, but it’s also about showing the wide array of experiences youth have gone through in this pandemic, the depth of which touched us profoundly. #MyPandemicStory is about listening to the artists’ voices, both in their artworks and descriptions of their creative process, in order to support this generation going forward.”

GLASS HALF FULL by Jackson of Toronto, Age 4. “Lonely but at least we still have rainbows and flowers.”

This exhibit is about creative expression… sharing big feelings that are difficult to find the right words for. It’s also about validating the experiences of young people, and how art can help us heal.

Understanding that the mental health of children has been severely impacted by the pandemic, the ROM made it a priority to consult with members of the COVID-19 mental health study team, led by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), to help launch this exhibition with care. 

AMBIGUITY by Choigoh of Mississauga. “We are (virtually) close, yet (physically) distanced; more careful and less safe. In this world, I reach for impossible touch—from friends and family.”

#MyPandemicStory: Youth Create Portraits of a Pandemic runs October 23, 2021 to February 21, 2022. The ROM continues to operate at reduced capacity and adheres to the guidelines set out by Ontario Public Health. For more information, please see ROM website