With a public art exhibit not possible in the spring 2020 semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors in Trinity College’s Studio Arts Program instead made the internet their gallery. The online Senior Thesis Studio Arts Exhibition shines a spotlight on these artists who would have otherwise seen their work displayed in the Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience (CCAN) gallery on campus. The recent graduates featured are Alison Cofrancesco ’20 (painting), Katherine Goguen ’20 (photography), Karen Montejo ’20 (photography), Caitlin Southwick ’20 (painting), Isabel Sanchez ’20 (painting), Keesha Rarere ’20 (photography), and Aidan Weider ’20 (painting).

Studio arts majors and minors typically deepen their practice in the senior thesis semester, pursuing an experience that is the culmination of four years of study. It allows time and space to independently discover one’s “voice.”

“Google Earth 1,” Photography • 2 x 3, © 2020 Katherine Goguen ’20 studio arts senior thesis
“Google Earth 1,” Photography • 2 x 3, © 2020 Katherine Goguen ’20

Susan Finnegan, the visiting assistant professor of fine arts who taught the “Thesis in Studio Arts” course this spring, said, “I had a great experience with the students and am proud of their perseverance in the face of such a scary and difficult interruption as the COVID-19 virus.”

The transition to advising and working remotely was a challenge for both the faculty and students. Charles A. Dana Professor and Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Fine Arts Pablo Delano said that the practice of art-making is hands-on, so remote learning created some problems, including ones of equity. “Not all students had equal access to materials or even the space to work on their art outside of campus,” said Delano. “And the courses that required specialized facilities with, for instance, printing presses or power tools, were especially difficult to move to a remote platform.”

“Lucemy,” Oil on Canvas • 3 x 3 ft, © 2020 Alison Cofrancesco ’20 studio arts senior thesis
“Lucemy,” Oil on Canvas • 3 x 3 ft, © 2020 Alison Cofrancesco ’20

Cofrancesco said that the insecurity of the world made it difficult to work consistently on her paintings, yet she is grateful to have gained what she called the “invaluable” work ethic of sitting down to create, regardless of the circumstances. The faculty also supported the students by checking in with them regularly. “Our professors were able to give us more time and self-direction,” added Cofrancesco. “They gave us the deadlines that were necessary to make the website possible and were always available to meet.”

Delano said that it was only natural to provide an alternate way to exhibit the fruits of the graduates’ labor, and that he was most proud of the students’ resilience and adaptability. “Students work hard to create the artwork, design and hang their exhibitions, prepare an invitation, and organize a reception. The pandemic made this impossible,” Delano said. “The website brings celebration and closure to the senior year for our majors.”

“Tulip Acreage,” Oil on Canvas • 30 x 36 in, © 2020 Isabel Sanchez ’20 studio arts senior thesis
“Tulip Acreage,” Oil on Canvas • 30 x 36 in, © 2020 Isabel Sanchez ’20

Students are grateful for the college’s efforts to create a digital archive to display their work.  Cofrancesco added that she thinks the digital archive should continue even once in-person exhibits resume. Delano agreed and said an online platform has a larger reach and can be seen by anyone.

Cofrancesco shared that the pandemic forced her to take a step back to think about what was behind the work and why she felt compelled to make it. “I am unsure I would have had this sort of reflection if I did not have this empty time,” Cofrancesco said. “I am glad my thesis was a vehicle for me to find my artistic voice, although I do wish it could have happened under better circumstances.”

The Senior Thesis Studio Arts Exhibition can be found here.