Introspection and the resiliency of the arts under COVID-19

The Gustavus Art and Art History department has dedicated its time to providing students with the resources needed to explore their identities, convey personal values and express themselves through their artwork. Over the years, various art majors and students taking an art class have utilized artistic expression and creation as a means of coping and pushing through trying times.
Senior Studio Art major Claire Strohmeyer, currently taking a ceramics course, and Senior Visual Arts major Sonja Quimby, participating in an independent study, demonstrate how creating art has provided them with comfort and ease during the chaotic and uncertain times of COVID-19.
“A lot of my work has been incredibly self-reflective. With COVID, it has forced me to reach out to people more often than I would. Some of my art was inspired by those interactions and talking with other people,” Strohmeyer said.
While each student has been able to channel their emotions and artistically flourish within their introspective spaces, numerous challenges have been imposed on them as resources and work spaces have been limited due to COVID-19.
Strohmeyer explains that her ceramics class is currently hybrid, where half of the students meet on Tuesday and the other half on Thursday. Thus, there are limited interactions between all the students.
“Our entire class is not allowed to meet in this entire studio together because that’s too many people for this space. That’s very hard for a studio class because you can’t look at each other’s work and get feedback from everyone,” Strohmeyer said.
Quimby also communicates her struggles with finding a space that fosters her motivation outside of an art studio.
“When trying to pursue your creative endeavors, a dorm room is not very effective. Definitely having space where you can work is very important,” Quimby said.
Nevertheless, students and faculty have stayed resilient when tackling these challenges and utilized various online resources to aid in the student’s participation and learning in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines.

“We put ourselves in our artwork, and I think it is nice that COVID allows you to be alone with your thoughts and the art that you’re making.”
-Senior Sonja Quimby

“When our professor is giving a demo, usually you would move closer to see and watch what he’s doing with his hands. We use Zoom during in-person classes just so the camera can zoom in closer to capture what the professor is doing,” Strohmeyer said.

“I had a lot of time to be myself this spring and summer, and a lot of my art has been better because I had time to sit and think about my ideas and what I’m going through”
– Senior Claire Strohmeyer

Regardless of the current struggles each student is facing, there is a consensus that both students are more equipped to overcome the obstacles of COVID-19 for this semester in comparison to the spring semester of 2020.
Strohmeyer and Quimby discuss how the unprecedented spread of COVID-19 last spring was harder to cope with due to classes abruptly switching online and all students being sent home.
“I know for spring semester I did take some classes that were switched to online courses and that was a hard experience. It was harder of a transition especially since one of my classes was figuring drawing, and without the models I had to do a lot of self-portrait drawings just by looking in the mirror,” Quimby said.
“Spring semester was difficult because there was no warning. I left a lot of my art behind when I went home so that was definitely a challenge. At least if things do go online this semester, everyone is better prepared for it,” Strohmeyer said.
As we continue to persist throughout the semester under COVID-19, both Quimby and Strohmeyer are nevertheless excited for their upcoming projects and appreciate how the emotional challenges of the pandemic continue to pave the way for their most expressive works.

“Art also became a meditation of sorts for me where I wouldn’t think about all the events happening around me. I would focus on creating what I can control.”
-Senior Sonja Quimby

Strohmeyer and Quimby have some of their most renowned art pieces displayed along with several other student pieces at the Schaefer Art Gallery Juried Student Exhibition. The Exhibition is open for students and faculty to explore from November 10-23 in accordance with social distancing protocols (Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.).

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