Studio Art in the Time of COVID-19

Studio Art in the Time of COVID-19

This year was difficult for students of all kinds, from scientific researchers who were unable to access their labs to history students who found libraries and archives across the country closed. How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect studio artists? Nicasia Solano-Reed (Modern Art History and Fine Arts, Hunter College ‘21) writes about her own experience transitioning her home into a studio and offers some tips for others.

My name is Nic, and part of my concentration at CUNY BA is studio art. Studio art of course suggests the presence of a studio. For the first two and a half years of my college career, the studios I had access to across CUNY were my sanctuary. Perhaps the best thing about them, which I didn’t realize until they were gone, were the friendships I formed with my classmates. Having an artistic community is so special, and working in a space full of inspiration and constructive criticism from my peers will always be the highlight of my undergraduate experience. My incredible professors and peers taught me to be an excellent painter and a more receptive human.

I was in the painting studio with my peers in March 2020 during open studio hours when we learned that CUNY wouldn’t be reopening for at least the rest of the semester. I relocated to Michigan and asked myself almost daily what it meant to be an artist without a studio and a community. I didn’t know how to create in isolation, but I took solace in knowing that every other studio art student across the world was facing some variation of the same dilemma. My biggest obstacles were a lack of space and isolation, but other students might have been facing a loss of materials as well. After a few weeks of blankly staring at my walls in an attempt to process my new reality, I decided to persevere, and turn my room into the best studio I could.

Living in my studio is first and foremost messy and a little chaotic, but it came with unexpected gifts. I could roll out of bed before the sun came up and paint while drinking my morning coffee. I could paint with my cat curled up next to me, and while playing music as loud as I wanted. I love all of these simple things so much. I also discovered that I was more willing to experiment with my work without the pressure of my professors and peers watching me all the time. I missed them deeply, but started to find my stride as my own artist outside of the classroom. I learned what kind of art I want to create. I’ve created work I’m very proud of in spite of so much isolation.

For my CUNY BA peers, I want to offer a few tips for cultivating an at-home artistic practice:

  1. Establish a dedicated studio space in your home. My room is small, but I rearranged it so that I have a corner just for my paints and canvases.
  2. Set aside dedicated studio hours for yourself. There are endless things to be distracted by at home, so boundaries are important.
  3. If you need feedback on your work, hop on Facetime or Zoom with your peers! I promise they will be happy to hear from you.

The era of COVID-19 will end and artistic practices will inevitably transform, but there’s beauty to be found for now in strange circumstances.