Summit Under Quarantine: New Photo Exhibit Opens on the Village Green

(above) Summit Under Quarantine: Photos by Joanie Schwarz

Summit Under Quarantine

New Photo Exhibit Opens on the Village Green

Submitted by Brian Carpenter

The photographer Robert Frank once said that there is one thing that every great photograph must contain: “the humanity of the moment.” Last March, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Jersey, Summit Public Art (SPA) commissioned artist Joanie Schwarz to collaborate on an online photo series that would capture this unprecedented moment in the city’s history.

“Public art is a reflection of how we see the world,” says Debi Schwarzmann, SPA’s Art Selection Co-Chair. “It’s the artist’s response to a moment in time combined with a sense of who we are. During the shutdown, it felt important to document the moment, bringing to light the qualities that define Summit as a special community.”

An award-winning photographer, Schwarz spent several weeks walking the streets of Summit, showing viewers the closed shops and empty streets of a city under lockdown, neighbors helping neighbors at GRACE’s “Giving Tuesday,” and signs of a community taking its first small steps towards a new “normal.”

The resulting series was a moving and inspiring work that reflected both the uncertainty of the time and the resilience of the Summit community. Based on the enthusiastic response it received, SPA decided to make this online exhibit even more widely accessible by bringing it to the Summit Village Green. Titled Summit Under Quarantine, this new outdoor exhibit features more than two dozen photographs, including some not previously seen.

“Our hope is that seeing this shared history will give even more people the chance to witness the empathy and hopefulness that got our community through those first dark days,” says SPA Co-Chair Marie Cohen, “and perhaps provide a way for all of us to reframe and reimagine our lives as we head together into the future.”

Schwarz, whose work has been on the covers of Time magazine, the L.A. Times, and the New York Times Magazine, likewise encourages people to see her quarantine photos in a positive light: “When you see the emptiness of the streets, don’t see the negative. See it as people staying home in order to keep each other safe. It is an active expression of Love.”

Summit Under Quarantine is currently on view at the Summit Village Green through November. Look for it at the intersection of Broad and Maple Streets across from the post office.

Summit Public Art is a 100% volunteer-run, donor-funded, city organization dedicated to bringing art to public spaces throughout Summit. Since 2002, SPA has installed over 75 pieces of temporary art throughout the community, many by artists of national and international renown. Its mission is to enhance the cityscape by infusing it with contemporary art installations that provide public art experiences to those who live in, work in, or visit Summit.

To learn more about Summit Public Art, visit their website at or follow them on Facebook and Instagram to hear about all their latest projects.

(above, l-r) SPA Art Selection Co-Chairs Debi Schwarzmann and Marie Cohen, Mayor Nora Radest, Common Council President Marjorie Fox, and SPA Communications Chair Brian Carpenter at the opening of Summit Under Quarantine. Photo by Summit Public Art

(above) Attendees view a series of masked portraits at the exhibit. Photo by Summit Public Art

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