UTSA students illustrate the devastating effects of COVID-19 through art and creativity

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In a moving art showcase, students at the University of Texas at San Antonio explained the inconceivable toll the pandemic has had on their experience as young adults so far.

Fittingly, the institution partnered with UT Health San Antonio to offer free COVID-19 vaccines at the College of Liberal and Fine Arts event last week.

Few demographics have been hit harder by the crisis than teens and youth in their twenties. Their academic and social lives have suffered from massive cancellations and closures. For much of the past 20 months, their campuses have been deserted, their extracurricular activities have been suspended, and their classes have been held on Zoom or Microsoft Teams rather than in a room hazy with chalk dust and lined with shelves of old textbooks. .

“I think academically it really affected my life,” said Bleah Patterson, major in creative writing. “You know, I was just talking to a teacher the other day and started to cry. And I was like, ‘I’m not the same person I was before COVID. Like, I’m not the same kind of student. And it all feels so much harder and heavier than before.

Entitled “Defining Moments”, the showcase represented a collaboration between dozens of aspiring historians, writers, musicians, artists, dancers and architects from the school.

It started with history students writing thoughts on the meaning of the present moment. Then the English majors wrote poems and essays based on the reflections. After that, the majors in musical composition composed music and the majors in art created pieces inspired by the poems and essays. Dance majors have developed a choreography influenced by reflections, poems, essays, musical compositions and works of art. Finally, the architectural majors have designed a physical exhibition space for all of the creations.

Guests view art exhibits in a UTSA showcase titled “Defining Moments”. UTSA students in six academic disciplines have been invited to participate in a collaborative art project to fight and address the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and the lives of those they love. Their work was presented at the Buena Vista Theater on Friday, November 19.

Ronald Cortes / Personal Photographer

The fruits of their labor were revealed in a long performance at the downtown Buena Vista Theater. Using words, images, sound and movement, students expressed the heartbreak that follows thwarted plans, missed opportunities, and the huge gap between what could have been and what was.

The third in line to take the stage was Patterson. In her poem, “Persistent Hope,” which compared the pandemic to a traffic accident, Patterson revealed that her ex-boyfriend died of COVID-19 in the summer of 2020.

“This disease has flown so much / so much / like a car crash while we are looking at our phones / in the passenger seat / this disease is a drunk driver driving 160 km / h / in oncoming traffic, / they were too young to die, ”the first two stanzas go. She was so affected by his death that she left school for a while.

“It really didn’t hit me until halfway through the fall semester (2020) and then I gave up,” Patterson said. “So actually I was gone for a year and just came back this semester. “

At the start of the performance of

At the start of the performance of “Mending”, the dancers were silhouetted in a UTSA showcase titled “Defining Moments”. UTSA students in six academic disciplines have been invited to participate in a collaborative art project to fight and address the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and the lives of those they love. Their work was presented at the Buena Vista Theater on Friday, November 19.

Ronald Cortes / Personal Photographer

Unlike Patterson, Itzel Vilches, an art major, chose to express himself visually. She has a concentration in printmaking and minors in business and art history. Its multi-block “Disinfect” print is a cacophony of stark reds and blues that represent COVID-19 related objects and concepts such as a face mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Its centerpiece is a woman holding a human heart and cell phone in gloved hands, her expression as solemn as that of a medieval Madonna. In the background, a particle of coronavirus, with flanks studded with advanced proteins that allow it to invade human cells, hovers like a threatening airship.

The piece served as a cover for the event program.

“The choice of color was actually one of my most important goals when making the part because this medical blue was everywhere in 2020… It’s in the gloves. It’s in the masks. It’s all over the place, and so I really, really wanted to go down that bruise, ”said Vilches. “And then, too, the red was very important because the plays are really about a state (of alarm) and anxiety and a lot of tension.”

Like Patterson, Vilches also saw the virus infect those close to him. Her sister and parents contracted COVID-19 around the New Year, although all have recovered.

“They got pretty sick. Neither of them had to go to the hospital, luckily, but it was scary to see them having trouble breathing, ”Vilches said.

Monae Sims discusses her job

Monae Sims discusses her work “The Disturbance” at a UTSA showcase titled “Defining Moments”. UTSA students in six academic disciplines have been invited to participate in a collaborative art project to fight and address the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and the lives of those they love. Their work was presented at the Buena Vista Theater on Friday, November 19.

Ronald Cortes / Personal Photographer

Yet the onslaught of the dead affected his life and work in other peripheral ways.

Towards the end of the holiday season, Vilches takes commissions to earn “a little extra money” in parallel. This year, someone reached out with an important request: Could Vilches draw a portrait of a family member who died from COVID-19?

Vilches agreed, knowing full well that she had been tasked not only to create an accurate visual representation of the deceased, but also to “create this memory” for the commissioner.

“I had never seen the power of my art like this before… It really made me appreciate the skills I have and what I can use them for,” she said, adding: “C was a great reminder of why I’m doing this. “

Patterson and Vilches both indicated that the “defining moments” experience was positive and empowering. The cascading format represented an innovative way to develop and maintain bonds even in the midst of a global pandemic, as it fostered a sense of solidarity. By engaging in the innermost thoughts and feelings of others in the form of creative work, the students involved realized that they were not alone in struggling with fear, grief, anxiety and everything else.

At the end of the performance of “The Disturbance”, the dancers were presented in a UTSA showcase titled “Defining Moments”.  UTSA students in six academic disciplines have been invited to participate in a collaborative art project to fight and address the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and the lives of those they love.  Their work was presented at the Buena Vista Theater on Friday, November 19.

At the end of the performance of “The Disturbance”, the dancers were presented in a UTSA showcase titled “Defining Moments”. UTSA students in six academic disciplines have been invited to participate in a collaborative art project to fight and address the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and the lives of those they love. Their work was presented at the Buena Vista Theater on Friday, November 19.

Ronald Cortes / Personal Photographer

“I think it’s a big deal because it creates community. It creates a community of affected people, ”Patterson said.

She often feels that she is expected to show courage in professional circles. Suck it up. Endure.

“I work in the service industry, and they sure don’t want it to affect you because business has to go on,” Patterson said. “So it’s good to have a community of people saying, ‘No, it happened. It’s true. We are all going to feel it together.

She hopes to continue her poetry studies by pursuing her Masters of Fine Arts this fall.

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