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Art school confidential

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 12/2/2021 Dana Gerber
Celia Delani, a glass and industrial design dual major, holding her blow pipe in a furnace to mold her glass. © Barry Chin/Globe Staff Celia Delani, a glass and industrial design dual major, holding her blow pipe in a furnace to mold her glass.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, students at Massachusetts College of Art and Design had to get creative — or, rather, more creative.

Lacking hands-on access to the professional equipment on campus and live feedback from professors, the approximately 2,000 students in disciplines across MassArt had to find innovative workarounds to develop their artistic skills. The college sent home “care packages” tailored to different majors and rejiggered curriculums to prioritize in-person studio time for the students who needed it most, said associate dean of academic administration Ernest Plowman: “Everything we did was almost course by course, class by class.”

This semester is the first time since March 2020 that there have been fully face-to-face classes at MassArt. For both semesters last school year, the majority of classes were remote (some were hybrid), and access to studio space was limited.

While not completely back to normal, students at MassArt have returned to drawing live models in classrooms, blowing (and occasionally shattering) glass, and shooting stop-motion short films. The Globe caught up with three of these students to find out what their at-home art education looked like, and what it’s like now that they’re back in the campus studios.

Name: Jade Kerry

Major: Animation

Year: Senior

What she’s working on now: Her senior project, a stop-motion film about a clown girl who is living with the ghost of her girlfriend who died.

How she worked from home: At MassArt, stop-motion students have access to industry-grade equipment: An automated camera and fixed lights move based on computerized specifications to capture the 24 frames that each second of film requires. When she was at home, Kerry had to re-create this exacting setup with a manual tripod, a makeshift animation table, and lights clipped to whatever posts she could find. The most crucial part? Remembering to close the door to keep her cats out. “They wouldn’t be allowed in the room because they would jump on everything and knock things over,” she said.

The hardest part of remote art making: The loss of rapport with her peers. “We have a room called the über kitchen, which is where a lot of the animation majors will go to work and hang out,” she said. “Not having that was definitely a loss.”

Best part about being back in the studios: Being around her peers again and cultivating “a more lighthearted environment — goof around with people and keep the spirits up while we’re doing our work so we don’t burn ourselves out,” she said.


Video: Tokyo art exhibition uses umbrellas to social distance (Reuters)

Name: Celia Delani

Major: Glass and Industrial Design

Year: Senior

What she’s working on now: Trying to make “the perfect cup” out of glass — with even thickness, a flat bottom, and straight sides — for her thesis project.

How she worked from home: Because she couldn’t do glass blowing or industrial design remotely, Delani forged projects out of the materials she had at home. For a glass jewelry class, she made a flower crown out of wire, glue, and nail polish. “I would have to find whatever materials I had at home,” she said. “It’s forcing you to use what you have — to be creative in a different way.”

The hardest part of remote art making: “Motivation,” she said.

What she learned: Without access to the “hot shop” (the glass blowing studio), Delani honed her sketching and designing skills. “I did a lot more thinking about what I was making, as opposed to just coming in and experimenting,” she said.

Best part about being back: “Seeing everybody. I love working with other people in the studio,” she said.

Name: Josselyn Siegel

Major: Illustration

Year: Junior

What she’s working on now: For her final projects, Siegel is making a 72-by-37-inch pastel scene of a cowboy in a desert, a zine called “Why monsters can’t skateboard,” and a watercolor painting of her friend DJing.

How she worked from home: She drew from her apartment in Roxbury (and then Jamaica Plain). “There was no separation between workspace and home space,” she said. “It felt cramped, and the air felt tight the whole time.”

The hardest part of remote art making: The nuances of her art got lost in translation. For instance, in her technical illustration class, to learn one-point perspective, she had to draw a city building from a photo she took. “I was trying to figure out how something looked 3-D from something flat,” she said.

What she learned: “I don’t really care how other people feel about my art anymore,” said Siegel, who loves drawing monsters and other gory creatures. “I struggled with that a lot before COVID hit, and then when COVID hit, I was like, you know what, I’m just going to make what I like.”

Best part about being back in the studios: Feeling like her work is on an upward trajectory. “Being able to see that progress is so uplifting because, like, I’m going somewhere,” she said.

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