"2020: A Look Back" Virtual Exhibit at Gallery35 Brings Changes and Raw Emotion

East Haven High School art students are showing their art to the public in a way that is different than in the past; by a virtual art exhibit. Students' art is more emotional this year as they share their sentiments and hardships they face during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Gallery35's "2020: A Look Back" exhibit opened online on February 17th, 2021 and will be open for EHHS in-person learners to visit physically until April 1st.

The current events of the world, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, had a major impact on the art in this year's exhibit and the emotions portrayed within each piece. Pieces featured come from a variety of students and included many different types of media such as drawn art, digital drawings, fashion, video, and photos of 3D art. The most prevalent emotions in this year's exhibit are different than ones in the past; Mr. Stevens, Gallery35 curator and art teacher, says that "Sadness, isolation, introspection were common themes" in this show. Moreover, this year's art show is the first to be shaped around current events instead of just being a spotlight on a certain person or theme's art. Sophomore Yaneliz Ortiz reflects on the emotions in her art saying that she was inspired by "the feeling of being isolated from everyone the lack of time spent with my friends and the feeling of being alone or lonely during the lockdown." The idea of feeling isolated is relevant to the theme and the pandemic as a result of restrictions and abstinence from family visits across the world.

Another common theme in the art show is unity. Adam Enders, a Junior, has submitted two pieces that focus on the importance of safety and a sense of unity during the pandemic. Adam says that his works "were triggered by the expression of the year, 'we’re all in this together.'" This idea of knowing one is not alone through the strife of the pandemic is therapeutic to some. Mr. Stevens believes that art is a great way to get in touch with one's emotions by saying, "Art in general is a way to process feelings and ideas and it allows you to express those thoughts. This is an uncertain time, so now more than ever, processing those feelings is vital." Many students who have participated in the arts, such as senior April Adkins, feel this way. April says that art is "a great way for me to get my emotions out where I could see them" and even Mr. Stevens has used art as a way to cope with difficult emotions.

The fact that this art show has gone almost entirely virtual has been a disappointment for many, but was essential in order to adapt to the changing times of the pandemic and to allow EHHS artists to share their work and voices. Although the change has been difficult, it also has been received overwhelmingly positively, according to Mr. Stevens. April sees it as a positive change because it allows for an easy way to show people the art that they wouldn't be able to see in person. On the other hand, Yaneliz says that she is saddened by the fact that people cannot see the featured art in person because she thinks that, "it is a better experience being able to see the paintings in-person and being able to [see] the details, textures, and shading of each art." Not much has actually changed in this year's art show except for how people can submit and view art pieces. The quality and quantity of art has stayed steady with Mr. Stevens claiming that the ~20 submissions is not too far off from a normal exhibit without an ongoing pandemic.

If you would like to check out Gallery35's "2020: A Look Back" exhibit for yourself, click this link!