CMATO Launches Online Exhibition Capturing Student Experiences of COVID-19

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Thousand Oaks, Calif. – As museums nationwide have closed their doors to visitors to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO) is presenting a new virtual exhibition that documents the historic outbreak’s effect on local art students.

Launching June 15 on, Life Interrupted is the result of an art competition initiated by CMATO to capture the perspective of Generation Z artists. Generation Z is defined by people born after 1997, and who will turn ages 8 to 23 in 2020.

Madison Mok, "Something Missing"
Madison Mok, “Something Missing”

The online exhibition features artwork by selected students in the Visual Arts Department of Oaks Christian, created during their time spent at home under COVID-19 quarantine. The exhibit includes diverse works in painting, illustration, digital art and mixed media, revealing the context and reality of life during a time of social distancing and uncertainty.

Generation Z, which has experienced the trauma of mass shootings and dire warnings about climate change, will likely be defined by growing up in a post-pandemic world. Experts believe coronavirus could change the generation’s perceptions of safe social distances and what high school and college are about.

“This is an unprecedented time in history, and we were keen to capture the perspective of Gen-Z artists. The COVID-19 crisis has impacted students inversely, from the way they learn and their living situations to their social lives,” said Tish Greenwood, CMATO Creative Director. “As efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 continue, students persist in creating art, and their works and talents deserve to be seen.”

As part of the collaboration between CMATO and Oaks Christian, students were invited to create original works that reflect their thoughts about the global health crisis and its impact on their generation, education and artistic practice. Students responded to a variety of COVID-19 questions, including how they feel about distance learning, the positive things they have experienced while learning from home and how they believe the pandemic will change society.

Life Interrupted presents students’ positive and negative feelings during a period when the comfort and security of regular routines have been disrupted: schools have transitioned to digital learning, families have sheltered in place together and traditional rites of passage, such as high school prom and graduation, have been postponed indefinitely.

Life Interrupted will be on view through December 31, 2020, and will be archived on CMATO’s website in perpetuity, serving as a historical record for generations to come.

Anna Wadman, chair of the Visual Arts Department of Oaks Christian, said students viewed Life Interrupted as a way to not only express themselves but to creatively document a unique time in history.

“As the year 2020 took an unexpected turn and classes moved online, students continued to create.  Pieces took on new meaning and urgency as student artists recorded their experience of the pandemic through their art. In a world out of control, creating art is an act of autonomy and a way to communicate thoughts that are hard to express or articulate,” said Wadman. “We are proud of our student artists who persevered under trial and exhibited resolve, flexibility and creativity as they worked from home without many of the tools and supplies they enjoyed in the classroom.  This exhibition not only gives them a chance to display their creative talent to the world but to help tell a story of resilience for the benefit of future generations.”

“In times of crisis, we do everything we can to keep CMATO open, because we know how important it is for people to have a space for contemplative experiences, where they feel connected to something larger than themselves,” said Len Linton, CMATO Chair. “This time, as museums were forced to close their doors due to COVID-19, we felt the best way to fulfill our mission was to create an online art exhibit could provide some of those important connections for the community.”

Additional schools in the Conejo Valley region will contribute original artwork and perspective to Life Interrupted.

“Creative experiences give students an outlet for expression that is vital for social and emotional learning, and even more so now,” said Greenwood. “We hope Life Interrupted will inspire and motivate more students to continue creating and sharing their art.”


The California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks (CMATO) is a cultural institution dedicated to engaging, educating and uplifting the human spirit through the palette of art. Established in 2008, the museum showcases established and emerging contemporary artists, with a unique focus on participatory art. As part of its mission to connect people to creativity, ideas and to each other, CMATO features rotating temporary exhibitions, guest artist lectures and educational programs that foster discussion, participation and an appreciation for the visual arts. To learn more or to become a museum member, visit


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