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Students' artwork focuses on life since COVID

In Alena Lee’s artwork, she tried to convey what it was like before students had to wear masks, feeling suffocated in the classroom and life now.

“It kind of feels like a new chapter, it’s kind of like a rebirth," she said.

The 16-year-old sophomore attends West Scranton High School. She is one of around 80 high school students from the Scranton School District whose artwork is part of the Post-Covid exhibit at the Hope Horn Art Gallery at the University of Scranton.

Alena has two pieces hanging. She created the first using graphite pencil. Three faces are connected by their hair and the strings of their masks. The masks are in different positions on their faces as vines and flowers grow from their heads. For the second piece, she used acrylic paint. A female figure has a black and crimson butterfly over her mouth.

The art teachers at both West and Scranton High Schools asked their students to reflect upon the last three years of their lives, including what it’s like to make art post-COVID from a teenager’s perspective. It was not a mandatory assignment but rather something they were encouraged to pursue on their own, said Ryan Hnat, an art teacher at West.

The students first studied art that showed dramatic changes in history, like Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, said Hnat.

The famous artist’s black, gray and white oil painting portrays the Nazi's devastating bombing of the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.

“We interpreted what he was trying to do in that and then we talked about that in class," he said.

Hnat met Darlene Miller-Lanning, Ph.D., the Hope Horn gallery director, last spring at a show for First Friday. It was the first time the gallery opened up to the public since the pandemic began in 2020 and they discussed collaborating.

"We ran with the theme of post-COVID, which was a very challenging concept for students who participated in the show," said Hnat.

Miller-Lanning said, at gallery events, students have spontaneous conversations about their artwork.

“That's a really special, valuable thing," she said. "And I don't think you know, you don't realize what you've got until it's gone."

The exhibit is up until Friday, April 14. A closing reception will be held on Wednesday, April 12, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The gallery is located on the fourth floor of Hyland Hall on Jefferson Avenue and Linden Street.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.