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A sheet of stamps from the United Nations Postal Administration
featuring the artwork of rising UD senior Chiara Fiori honors hospital
workers and encourages safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the
preliminary design for the sheet, on sale beginning July 24.
When Chiara Fiori set to work on a digital painting of a hospital
worker, she never expected it would be seen around the world. Sure, she
completed the project in response to a global call for art put forth by
the United Nations, but she never thought her piece would be selected
from 17,000 submissions or that the UN would incorporate it into a
forthcoming stamp project about the coronavirus pandemic.
You keep hearing about the long
hours these frontline workers are putting in, so I wanted to express my
personal gratitude, said Fiori, adding that her own father has
recovered from COVID-19. I was very surprised and excited when it was
Mostly, she explained, she did the work for herself.
I use art as therapy when Im feeling anxious or stressed out, said
the rising University of Delaware senior. Watching the news, you feel
compelled to act, and this gives you an outlet.
When the COVID-19 pandemic turned the country upside down in March,
college students everywhere were sent home, their academic and social
routines upended. But Blue Hens like Fiori, working toward a degree in
the Department of Art and Design,
had a coping mechanism up their sleeve (ahem, smock). Seemingly
overnight, their supplies paints, cameras, digital design tools
became instruments not just for completing homework assignments and
group projects, but for bearing witness to an extraordinary moment in
the world and finding their own footing in the process.
Some people might think staying home in isolation limits
creativity, said Jia-Rey Chang, assistant professor of architecture and
interaction design. But I think this situation is helping us develop
even more creative ways for our work. You may even see new art forms
emerging out of this special moment. In this weird situation, we are
going to find our way out through creativity.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Chiara Fiori takes a
break from creating to snuggle with her dog Winnie in New Jersey.
Some of this creativity is manifesting in an increased blending of
physical and virtual worlds. Simulation video games that seek to
reproduce real life, for instance, are now being used to design
everything from graduation ceremonies to virtual art exhibitions. Musicians are performing concerts you can attend from your own living room with a special app and virtual reality goggles.
In a COVID-19 world, where lockdown has become the norm, people are
increasingly seeking mobility through this type of art, and Blue Hens
Take Rachel Goerke, a visual
communications major and rising senior at UD. When the virus took hold,
she had been looking forward to an upcoming study abroad trip with
fellow art students, a whirlwind London adventure involving museums,
live theater and briefs with professional artists. This would have been
Goerkes first time in Europe, so it hit me hard when that was
postponed, she said. I was going to learn so much.
Rather than crawl under the covers and sulk, Goerke is channeling her
disappointment into her work. Over the next few months, as a Summer Fellow
at UD, she will design virtual window displays for a womens clothing
brand along with an app prototype that allows for 3-D shopping from
home. The idea is to give people an in-store experience even in
I want the displays to romanticize social distancing, she said. I
was inspired by carrier pigeons and Romeo and Juliet communicating from a
distance. I want it to have that dreamy feel.
For another class, Goerke designed imagery and merchandise for a fake
band by the name of Silent Vegetable. One of her branded items? Not
your typical concert tee-shirt, but a COVID-19 inspired face mask.
As an art student at UD, Rachel Goerke designed branded
merchandise including these COVID-19 face masks for a hypothetical
band by the name of Silent Vegetable.
Id just go crazy right now if I couldnt create, she said. I
feel that, as an artist, you have the power to decide the atmosphere
youre living in. This experience has shown me how fortunate I am to be
part of the creative community at UD. Even when the world comes to a
standstill even during difficult times I know I have the power to
keep going, to keep trying to inspire people.
Another student taking the virtual route is Samantha Ford, a rising
senior majoring in fine arts. For her Summer Fellows project, shell use
skills gleaned from an art and technology class to create an immersive
virtual-reality world accessible on ones smartphone with a VR viewer
you can make from cardboard. While the aesthetic details of this world
are yet to be determined, Ford is hoping it will provide a temporary
escape and a little bit of happiness during a challenging time.
In the meantime, as a visual editor for
The Review student newspaper, Ford has been churning out
coronavirus-inspired illustrations to accompany articles on a range of
This is a way to communicate emotions I cant put into words, she
said. And I look at it from a historical perspective, too. Artists have
always documented whats happening around them as a way of marking our
place in time.
For Michael Tapia-Gonzales, rising sophomore majoring in fine arts
and visual communications, creating during COVID-19 hasnt come easily.
In May, as he was finishing up the spring semester, he and his brother
and parents were all diagnosed with the virus. Tapia-Gonzalezs father
was hit the hardest already unable to work due to the pandemic, now he
could barely walk. He had no choice but to seek hospital attention.
The family has since recovered, Tapia Gonzales said, but the stress
of those trying weeks made finding a creative groove in quarantine
difficult. Things were further complicated by a lack of access to clay
and other supplies hed been working with in a ceramics class at UD.
Suddenly, he needed to make sculptures out of found objects kitchen
plates and paper clips among them. It was a challenge, but, in the end,
the experience forced me to think outside of the box, he said.
Creating took my mind off of everything.
This concept drawing represents the virtual reality world that fine arts student Samantha
Ford is designing as a safe and colorful escape from quarantine.
One annual art project that took on special significance this
year was a vanitas photography assignment. Students were tasked with
shooting a still-life picture that would remind the viewer of the
fragility of life (think skulls and snuffed out candles) and the
worthlessness of worldly goods. For Tapia-Gonzales, already thrust into
greater identification with his priorities, choosing props felt easy. In
his piece, jewelry and coins represent things that cease to matter when
faced with the failing health of a loved one.
I was especially impressed with the thoughtfulness with which the
students approached this, said Priscilla Smith, associate professor of
photography. The moment that were in and the discussion we were able
to have surrounding this assignment made it something more than: Get
this photograph done and turn it in. It became a real testimony to who
they are and where theyre at. With students who are developing visual
literacy and a skillful voice, art becomes a way to say things that are
very personal, but also universal. It can be much more than decoration.
Theres also a practical benefit to being an art student during the
time of COVID-19. Working remotely and more independently has offered
Blue Hens a window into the reality of dealing with clients in a
professional setting, and instructors have leveraged the opportunity.
After students were sent home, our class became more of a dialogue
back and forth about the field and what to expect after graduation,
said David Brinley, associate professor of art and an award-winning
illustrator. We were able to get down to the nuts and bolts of the
business contracts, rates, negotiations. All the things that feel more
theoretical in the classroom.
One of the points Brinley stressed is the importance of facing
rejection, a professional reality. A contest he urged the students to
enter? The UNs global call for coronavirus-related art, to which Fiori submitted her digital painting.
Michael Tapia-Gonzales, rising sophomore majoring in fine arts and
visual communications, is the first member of his family to study art. He has used found objects to create projects at home.
The piece, which depicts a nurse
wearing a face mask covered in the words thank you in multiple
languages, will be featured on a sheet of stamps encouraging healthy
practices during the time of COVID-19.
Available from the UN Postal
Administration (UNPA), the sheet will be sold beginning July 24 at stamp
dealers around the world, at unstamps.org,
and at the UN headquarters in New York, Geneva and Vienna (when these
offices reopen). Each sheet will include dollar, Swiss Franc and Euro
currencies. A portion of sales will support the UNs COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
This painting is a beautiful, powerful tribute, said UNPA creative
director Rorie Katz, who selected the winning piece, which came with a
$500 prize. I was very pleased to find out the artist is a college
student. I had no idea.
Katz added that she had a strong gut reaction to Fioris work it
brought up her own emotions surrounding the virus and the pride she
feels for a dear friend serving as a hospice nurse.
Which is, perhaps, a nice reminder: Art isnt merely helping the
students who make it. Its impacting those lucky enough to encounter it.
For some, despite all the hurt the virus has wrought, that is a reason to celebrate.
In a lot of ways, this has been a blessing, said William Deering,
assistant professor of advertising and photographic design. The virus
has made us do things we wouldnt normally do. Because of this, I have
students whove come alive.
Article by Diane Stopyra; photos courtesy
of Chiara Fiori, Rachel Goerke, Samantha Ford, Michael Tapia-Gonzales
and the United Nations Postal Administration
Published June 16, 2020