In many ways, the global pandemic changed how we make our way through the world. And while it may have cancelled many things completely, art was not one of them. In fact, creativity flourished. On campus, Potter Gallery is open again, marking its return with a show entitled, "How Did We Create? (Ugh, during these unprecedented times?)" It is a retrospective, of sorts, on the creative lives of Taft students and faculty during the pandemic.
The show features collective works curated around essential pandemic questions: How did we respond? How did we reimagine? How did we play and connect to joy? How did we build community? How did we reflect on our progress? How did we reveal ourselves?
Wear a Mask and Reveal What's Behind It
Intermediate Painting and AP/Advanced Art students considered some of the words and concepts that defined the Taft experience in 2020 and early 2021—virtual, remote, synchronous, asynchronous, hybrid, masked, socially distant, to name a few. They created paintings representing the places and faces that connect us to real and imagined worlds. "While we lacked control over where we could go and who we could be with, we always possessed the ability to create what we wanted to see in the future," the artists note.
Similarly, Advanced Photography students explored emotional responses to the pandemic through words and images—desolate off spaces, masked people, distant locales.
Reimagining opportunity, rediscovering play, connecting to joy
Performing arts students—actor, singers, dancers, musicians—are celebrated in the Gallery for their creativity in mounting three productions during the 2020-21 academic year featuring masked and socially distanced actors with most of the audience tuning in via Zoom. A challenge and departure for disciplines reliant on "moving, interacting, and harmonizing with others in close proximity."
While Elspeth Michaels '05 and John O'Reilly helped students explore the creative process in the pandemic classroom, their personal explorations continued outside of the classroom. A sculptor and surfer (perhaps the quintessential socially distanced activity), O'Reilly marries his passions by creating custom surfboards, including the one on display in Potter Gallery. After moving back to CT during the pandemic, Michaels built a plywood wall in her backyard to teach herself how to spray paint. Bloom Wall was the result of "falling in love with the process of experimenting with a new medium and letting go of the idea of a perfect final product."
Connecting with the Community
Despite pandemic protocols, Tafties found ways to continue connecting with and serving local business and organizations. Design Intensive students worked with local café Cara Bean to enhance their brand identity. Over the course of the semester, students created new logos and marketing assets. When the café's second location launches this fall, expect to see the logo designed by Muffin Prakittiphoom '21featured prominently.
Photos from the "How Did We Create?" opening event in Potter Gallery