by Hope Chookazian
COVID-19 has ravished the lives of businesses and millions of people worldwide. However, there is one community that refuses to buckle to this pandemic: the artists.
From Broadway shutting their doors until May 2021 to films such as Matt Reeves’ adaptation of “The Batman” and Warner Bros. third “Fantastic Beasts” movie halting production, the arts industry has not remained immune to the pressures of this pandemic. Despite these setbacks, however, this has still been an incredibly fruitful time for creativity.
Abigail Wolf, a sophomore visual arts major at SUNY Purchase, found a new outlet during this time.
Wolf, who is currently residing at home in Middleport, NY, says her creativity has been hit hard. Despite her feelings of not being able to make art like she used to, she did teach herself a new skill, sewing.
Throughout the pandemic, Wolf worked on this craft by creating masks. She made and gave out 200 masks to people in her community. “I found families in need by word of mouth,” Wolf says.
“My mom, sister, and grandparents are all immunocompromised,” Wolf says. “It hit us harder when everything went into lockdown. I decided to try to make a simple mask after watching various YouTube videos, using headband as elastic and scrap material as the mask.”
As Wolf evolved her sewing skills, she started to experiment with her own patterns. She eventually began to feel secure enough about her product she decided to set up an Etsy shop, called “DysfunctionalSewing” and now sells them starting at $4.
Wolf says sewing has become a sweet distraction, helping her get through the shutdown. “It’s a different outlet, but the repetitive nature is calming,” she said.
Another Purchase student, Olivia Previti, a sophomore double major in painting and drawing and arts management describes how the school going remote has both hindered and helped her.
“I haven’t had any access to a studio, and oil paints are too toxic to use in my small home space,” said Previti. ‘I generally don’t feel as free as I did on campus. I feel dependent on my home which kept me in my comfort zone in painting, drawing, and the sizes of the canvas I use.”
Previti, who has spent this semester at home in Long Island, NY, details how she has stuck to small paintings, but while on campus she would do paintings close to 6 feet.
For Previti the benefits of this time have been finding new creative outlets. To name a few, candle making, needle punching and jewelry. These new skills allowed her the opportunity to create her own business, “VenusCreation Co.”
While these new outlets have “filled some of the emptiness” of not being on campus and having in-person classes, being remote still gets to Previti. “It absolutely gets to me that I’m not getting the full experience and education I’m paying for.”
Leslie Cober-Gentry, who teaches undergraduate students at the Fashion Institute of Technology and graduate students at Western Connecticut State University, is also finding new inspiration.
Cober-Gentry first started teaching at FIT in 2007, focusing on conceptional thinking.
“They wanted someone on faculty in the illustration department who could teach students how to read a story and symbolize the words into an illustration,” she said.
She teaches the same focus at a higher level to her master’s students.
Aside from getting used to Zoom lectures and creating her own art projects during the pandemic, Cober-Gentry found a new artistic outlet. She was going to paint a mural.
Regardless of never having painted a mural before, Cober-Gentry describes how she said yes from the beginning.
“I have a mentality in my life to go for it,” she says. “If you want to do something, don’t be afraid of it.”
With the weight of all the events that unfolded this year, Cober-Gentry describes her process in designing this mural. She started the creation in March, just as the pandemic started to explode in the United States. Her favorite season as it feels like a “rebirth” of sorts, spring was also right around the corner, and that played a large role in her design.
“You tend to draw certain things or themes depending on your mood,” she says. “I could’ve made it dark, and with masks, but I wanted to make it happy and positive.”
Stephanie Poborsky, who is going into her last semester at Purchase studying art history and visual arts, also used this time to find new ways to create. “I’ve made handmade egg tempera paint and acrylic,” said Poborsky.
Poborsky, currently living in Highland, NY, says she enjoys her painting classes being online. “Painting on my own time, throughout the week, in my own space rather than a studio with six other people on campus made it more comfortable,” she says. “I’ve been able to paint what I like.”
Another pastime of hers is working with and restoring antiques. Her father owned an antique store in Mamaroneck but had to shut his doors this past summer, partially due to the pandemic. Poborsky had worked with her father on restorations at the shop on the weekends before closure.
For her future, she hopes to continue to create paintings and continue to sell them. Currently, she sells paintings through her Instagram, @pobo.art.n.restorations.
She had words of encouragement for other artists during this time. “Your art is an outlet to escape from stress, to display your emotions on a canvas, in a piece that you sculpt,” Poborsky says.“You give a little piece of yourself when you create something for everyone to see.”