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First virtual exhibition displays artwork inspired by COVID-19

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Cassady Fulbright's painting was inspired from her online learning experience. She put the images she saw to canvas. "I was able to glimpse into my peers' worlds. It was a portal into a different place with our own personal styles," she said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, University of North Georgia (UNG) sophomore Donal Jolley felt worry and dread. Then the nontraditional student pursuing a degree in art education put his emotions on canvas.

"The job of an artist is to document what is going on without words," said Jolley, 57, of Gainesville, Georgia. "A good artist will embed a whole lot of messages in one piece. Fifty years from now, a person can see how we were feeling and thinking without having to look at or translate an essay. It tells a story that crosses culture and language."

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UNG student Donal Jolley said his art represents his feelings during the COVID-19 pandemic. "In the top corner, the pink shape is me and how I was feeling. I had my hands over my head and I was curled up in a ball of worry and despair. The strands of the coronavirus were reaching out to grab me," he said.

Jolley's daughter and son-in-law are ICU doctors in New York City and his wife is a nurse in Atlanta. His acrylic piece titled "Covid" is one of 19 pieces in UNG's inaugural online exhibition "Student Voices from the Quarantine." The display features works created by UNG students during isolation that represent their reactions to the health crisis. It will run from May 26 to June 30 on the UNG art galleries online exhibition webpage.

"This exhibition is devoted to artists who, as we all have, suddenly found themselves cut off from their work spaces only to discover different ways to approach crafting a work of art," said Dr. Pam Sachant, head of the Visual Arts Department at UNG.

It is also UNG's first foray into exhibiting students' work virtually. It is the first of three planned online exhibitions to connect the public with art.

Victoria Cooke, director of art galleries at UNG, explained she collaborated with others to launch the digital exhibit.

"With the UNG art galleries currently closed due to COVID-19, the Office of Web Communications helped develop a different way to celebrate the work of our talented students and share it with the community," Cooke said.

Cassady Fulbright, a senior pursuing a degree in studio art, was pleased UNG adapted to the situation and allowed her work and others' to be shown this summer. Traditionally students have the opportunity to showcase their work in art galleries on the Dahlonega, Gainesville and Oconee campuses.

"UNG wants to ensure that they promote their students," Fulbright said. "As an artist, you want people to see your work. I think the virtual exhibit can be a whole new venue and more people can view it."

The 22-year-old from Toccoa, Georgia, also applauded the university's ability to transition to online instruction in March. Her painting was inspired from her online learning experience.

"I was able to glimpse into my peers' worlds. It was a portal into a different place with our own personal styles," she said.

Rebecca Swain used her time sequestered at home to concentrate on her work. The senior pursuing a degree in art marketing escaped from the world and delved into weaving three pieces of yarn with natural colors.

"I wanted to create a homey, comforting piece," said the 20-year-old from Cumming, Georgia. "Being able to sit down and work on weaving for hours and hours was comforting. It was relaxing to not focus on what was going on. It also gave me time to process things."

Other students with works in the exhibit are Neona Brackett, Magnum Brock, Paul Brock, Halle Castille, Angelica Cummings, Natalie Davenport, Katrina Henrickson, Joshua Loftin, Lori Marshall, Jonah McEver, Melissa Poloncarz, Rebecca Sabaka, Rachel Spangler, Mallie Sykes, Kristina Thompson, and Charles Wharton.

To see the pieces, visit the UNG galleries online art exhibitions webpage.

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