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Student Art in the Time of COVID-19  

Student painting depicting Aang and Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Student painting depicting Aang and Appa from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

When Seton Hall switched to online learning in response to increasing quarantines related to the COVID-19 outbreak, faculty and students were torn from their classrooms and all but imprisoned in their homes. As family members became sick or lost their jobs, the pressure for students to succeed in an uncertain future and new learning environment was often crushing. Concerned about the mental, emotional, and spiritual welfare of its students, the English department faculty quickly reached out to ask, "Are you okay?"

"Student Art in the Time of COVID-19" was born out of the online engagement practices of English department professors Robyn Lemanski and Rachael Warmington. Both recognized the need for additional forms of engagement and communication once Seton Hall went entirely remote. From out of their concerns came the idea for what Warmington called a Keeping in Touch Discussion Board as a place for students to share pictures, memes, jokes, messages, songs, videos, links, and whatever took their mind off the quarantine.

Meanwhile, English instructor Dr. Chris McGunnigle had been using arts and crafts as a basis for his creative pedagogy, realizing the value of artistic expression as a form of emotional release. Inspired by his colleagues’ discussion boards, he set up his own digital check-ins for students to submit photos of at-home art projects they created during quarantine. These works from Dr. McGunnigle's Core English I and II classes form the bulk of this gallery, with additions from students in Prof. Sioux Patashnik's Core English II course.

As part of developing outreach, Prof. Gail Vignola, Coordinator of Second-Language Writing and faculty advisor of SHU's Scholars for Syria, initiated her Six-Word Memoir Project as a way for her Core English II students, both international and domestic, to summarize and distill their semester through poetry. Using brevity to emphasize directness, Prof. Vignola wanted her student memoirs to be as reflexive and spontaneous as their sudden departure from campus. The final arrangement of "Student Art in the Time of COVID-19" combines the artwork from Dr. McGunnigle’s classes and Prof. Vignola's student poems.

"Student Art in the Time of COVID-19" seeks to capture a period of hope and unity as the students and faculty at Seton Hall were separated from each other, many never to meet again face to face. The discussion boards from which the gallery was created served a goal to create digital safe spaces for students to vent and find solace through their collective experience. "Student Art in the Time of COVID-19" seeks to continue these goals beyond the semester and unify the visions of instructors who reached out during these troubled times and their Seton Hall students who needed the outreach.

View "Student Art in the Time of COVID-19" and other projects included as part of the Petersheim Academic Expo.

Categories: Arts and Culture

For more information, please contact:

  • Mary Balkun
  • (973) 761-5103