Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of a four-part series focused on the third annual Arts & Sciences Week, a celebration of the talents of the WPI community.
Part 3: Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic through art
In the summer of 2020, the School of Arts & Sciences issued a call for the WPI community to submit art projects for “The Arts and Creativity in the time of COVID.”
Recognizing that artists respond to, reflect upon, and ultimately shape the world, the contest aimed to highlight work showcasing how differently people process and navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. It also invited WPI community members to share their own experiences during the pandemic, noting that they’re often communal, shared, and public. Participants were asked to submit work that addressed numerous themes and experiences that can be felt during the times of COVID, including “Community in Isolation,” “Communication in a Virtual World,” “Identity, Agency, and Optimism in a Pandemic,” and “Empathy in Challenging Times,” among others.
From musical performances to the written word, and from welding to painting, 48 members of the WPI community entered submissions. Six judges (Erica Mason ’96, artist and WPI trustee; Sergio Salvatore ’02, pianist/composer, and director of technology for Steinway & Sons; Elaine McKenna-Yeaw, executive director of Worcester Center for Crafts; Jennifer deWinter, professor and director of the Interactive Media and Game Development (IMGD); Kate McIntyre, assistant professor of Humanities and Arts (HUA), and Kate Moncrief, HUA department head) considered each piece and decided upon the final winners.
On Monday, Moncrief announced the contest winners and runners-up.
“This contest, which was launched in the early months of the pandemic, was imagined as a way to provide space for and to nurture creativity while we were all at home,” she says. “The submissions not only affirm the abundance of talent we have in our community, and but also show the power of art to record our experiences, give voice to our emotions, and tell our stories during this challenging time.”
“Connecting…,” the contest-winning piece by Camryn Berry ’21.
Camryn Berry ’21, a biomedical engineering major, won the grand prize of $1,000 for her multimedia piece, “Connecting …”, which addressed the theme of “Communication in a Virtual World.” Berry, who has been drawing her entire life, and who prefers working with charcoal, says this was her first multimedia piece, which “demanded this sort of mishmash of style, color, and personality to reflect how disoriented this unexpected time has made me feel. The portrait is in graphite, pen, Prismacolor, and colored paper. There’s even a paint chip hidden in there.”
The idea for her piece came from her return from her Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) in Israel in C-Term, where she never spent a minute alone, to an entirely remote D-Term. She says her art shows a snapshot of how she felt during quarantine: “isolated, but with a heart open and longing for the connections I think we all desire.”
“‘Connecting…’ was inspired by loneliness, which I feel is a truly human emotion, something most of us can relate to and yet not many of us want to admit to,” Berry says. “If there’s anything to be taken away from this piece, it’s to be honest with those emotions, both with yourself and with others. I depicted seven billion participants on the Zoom call in “Connecting…” to serve as a reminder to myself that, although I was physically alone, I wasn’t going through isolation alone.”
To give the entire WPI community an opportunity to view all the contest winners, runners-up, and submissions, deWinter and a team of IMGD students (Mikel Matticoli ’21, a computer science and IMGD double major; Diana Kumykova ’21, a computer science and IMGD double major; Drew James ’24, a computer science and IMGD double major; and Benjamin Cronin ’24, a computer science major) created an interactive virtual gallery. The gallery, which was unveiled on Tuesday, will be available for viewing until Dec. 31, 2020.
“We’re excited to showcase a digital version of all of the great artwork submitted by the community,” deWinter says. “Not only will the interactive gallery enable viewers to get an immersive experience of the art itself situated virtually on the WPI campus, but also of the emotion and perspective of each artist as they navigated the beginning phases of the pandemic. A special thanks to Drew, Mikel, and Diana for giving this gallery life.”
Winners and runners-up in each category: