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During this strange era of shutdowns and social distancing, artists, athletes and musicians across the country are trying to find new ways to channel their energy and share their passion. William Brangham has the story of a California artist who's trying to help people who are sick -- many with COVID-19 -- and connect them with loved ones. It's part of our ongoing arts and culture series, Canvas.
In this time of social distancing, artists, athletes, musicians all over the country are trying to find new ways to channel their energies.
William Brangham brings us this portrait of one artist in California who's trying to help people who are sick.
It's part of our ongoing art series, Canvas.
The crisis that we're facing is really twofold. It's a health crisis, but it's also a crisis of isolation.
My name is Tucker Nichols. I'm an artist based in San Rafael, California.
For anyone who's been very sick before, the actual experience of being sick as itself incredibly isolating.
Flowers For Sick People is a really simple project where I send flowers, paintings of flowers, to people who are ill right now from their loved ones.
I have a simple Web site, Flowers For Sick People. You just send me the name and address of someone who is sick, and I will make a small flower painting, and send it off to them.
There's no messages. There's no — it says who it's from and who it's to. It's a totally free service. It just arrives in the mail unannounced.
Right now, I'm still putting them all in envelopes and hand-addressing them. But I may move to postcards if I can't keep up with the requests.
Increasingly, the requests that I'm getting are more and more related to the virus and to people who are sick and suffering from the virus. So, it's really become this portrait of what people are going through and how cut off they feel from the people who they're trying to take care of.
I realized that you can't send flowers to everyone who deserves them. So, I started posting images of flower drawings on my Web site and on social media as sort of tributes to segments of the population at large.
Flowers for the ventilator operators. Flowers for the hospital janitors. Flowers for the barehanded mail carrier.
And then also ones that were kind of about everyone's experience of being inside.
Flowers to the neighbor who sits in her window on patrol. Flowers for elastic waistbands. Flowers for the dishwasher. Flowers for you, if you are the dishwasher.
Flowers I have been posting are really an attempt for me to connect with other parts of the world, other people out there who are having similar thoughts that I'm having, or thinking about other segments of the population.
Flowers for someone who left in an ambulance, but still no update. Flowers for the kids who are realizing none of the grownups know how this is going to play out. Flowers for the frazzled woman at the post office directing the other customers to maintain their six-foot perimeters, while trying to keep her place in line.
Just sort of say, hey, we're all in this together. We're all having some common experiences, even while we're so isolated. We're all experiencing that. We're all waking up and thinking, how do I do this?
Flowers for New York City. Flowers for anyone at any hospital for any reason. Flowers for your mother. Flowers for anyone stuck at home without flowers today.
Wow, do we need that.
And one additional note: All the video for that story was filmed by Tucker's daughter, 9-year-old Ada Nichols.
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William Brangham is a correspondent and producer for PBS NewsHour in Washington, D.C. He joined the flagship PBS program in 2015, after spending two years with PBS NewsHour Weekend in New York City.
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