UHS Students Stay Creative During COVID-19

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By SYDNEY GAW
Staff Writer

Since the beginning of quarantine last April, it has become increasingly difficult for artists to showcase their work. The cancellation of art exhibits, concerts, performances, and live showcases has meant that artists have fewer opportunities to share projects and have to find other ways to retain their creativity. While the past year has been very limiting for artists across the country, many students have been using their time at home to focus on their artistic skills. 

At the start of the school year, several UHS students formed an online group via Discord as an outlet for students to discuss art techniques, share their artwork, and receive feedback from fellow artists. Throughout distance learning, members of the group have been participating in various challenges, contests, and art exchanges. 

“The one positive change that I doubt would’ve been able to occur without [COVID-19] is meeting a ton of other artists my age online,” junior and co-organizer of the server Quinlan Tobin said. “Forming an online Discord-based art challenge allowed me to socialize with other artists, and it was awesome being able to participate in it alongside 30+ highschoolers that share the same passion for art.” 

The group has since expanded to include artists throughout IUSD and is known collectively as the Youth Artists of Irvine (YAI). The group most recently hosted an “art exchange” challenge where students agreed to draw portraits of each other based on a randomized Google form. The challenge, which involved over 50 artists, allowed students to showcase their unique artistic styles and communicate with other artists about their work. 

“The thing I enjoyed most about the art exchange was seeing the large variety of art that everyone made,” YAI member and Northwood High School sophomore Saba Nabaeighahroudi said. “From unique subject matter to interesting color palettes, all the artworks were truly inspiring.” 

Saba Nabaeighahroudi’s submission to YAI 2021 Art Exchange (Saba Nabaeighahroudi).

In addition to the formation of online artistic communities, many students are using their time at home to refine their skills individually. 

“As someone who never really had much time to draw, the pandemic really pushed me to be more creative,” sophomore Emily Sun said. “I have been working on many pieces for my family, friends, and my social media account, which I recently created to share my artwork.” 

A family portrait by Emily Sun (Emily Sun).

Individual practice has also become a habitual exercise among young musicians who, in the absence of fellow musicians, section leaders, conductors, and private instructors, have had to find other ways to stay connected to their music. 

“Quarantine has made me a lot more independent in practicing and has also taught me a lot about perseverance and taking initiative to practice,” sophomore and flutist in the UHS Wind Symphony Alysa Feng said. “Even though I wasn’t able to participate in the school arts programs and play with other people, continuing to practice brought me a lot of joy, and I was able to learn a lot of new pieces and really improve on areas I was struggling with. I also entered a few [online] competitions and even won prizes for a few of them.” 

However, Feng also shared that she “anticipate[s] the day where [she] can go back to in-person recitals and competitions.” 

Although limited access to the outside world may seem unmotivating for people who rely on an outside environment for inspiration, others are using their extended time inside to fuel their creativity. 

“[COVID]-19 actually allowed me to use all my free time to draw. I [drew] constantly over the summer and [was] able to crank out a piece of art without any interruptions,” junior and co-founder of YAI Linnea Jerkovich said. “I made so much improvement this year because of all the practice I was able to get over quarantine.” 

In other cases, some students have instead used quarantine as an opportunity to experiment with different art forms. 

“Since I haven’t been able to go to an art studio and learn from an instructor, I have been trying to experiment my style around. My main goal over quarantine has been to sharpen my painting skills, but I also did some realism work [and] pencil art, which I have never done before,” sophomore Vibhas Ippili said. “I think just working/starting/finishing a piece is something enjoyable, but trying something new and excelling in that is just another level of satisfaction. I am proud to say that I have nailed observational/realism pencil drawing.” 

A self-portrait by Vibhas Ippili (Vibhas Ippili).

Sophomore and member of UHS Philharmonic Orchestra Miyako Kato has also taken up several new artistic projects in lieu of the concerts she would be preparing for during a regular school year. 

“I’m still trying to practice violin, but COVID-19 has definitely impacted my motivation to practice,” Kato said. “I’ve actually gotten into embroidering and doing other artistic projects at home to keep creative.” 

Tobin has also used quarantine to channel his creativity into learning new skills. 

“I’m mostly into drawing, but over quarantine I’ve actually been putting much more of my time into music,” Tobin said. “I’ve known guitar and ukulele basics for about a year and a half now, and now it feels great to have all this free time to just mess around with it, slowly getting better while having fun. I’ve always approached drawing in a very technical way, so music feels much more expressive and is my preferred form of ‘vent art.’” 

Although many artists cannot wait to return to live concerts, performances, workshops, and showcases, it is important that students continue to exercise their creative skills. Art, in whatever form it may be, has always provided an outlet for students to express themselves and display their talents. More than ever, exercising artistic skills has become a way in which students can maintain their mental health and emotional wellbeing.