The Birth of the Pandemic Drawing Club

With days melding into each other as quickly as rolling out of bed, there appears to be a common feeling of dread. Dread of another day stuck indoors. Whether it be lounging about or completing the most menial of tasks, such as washing your hair, making breakfast, stretching, or my favorite, longingly looking out the window.

Intertwined with this web of feelings comes the overwhelming amount of emails that every student must be receiving. Who knew I could receive 20 emails from Etsy reminding me that the“Altuzarra x Etsy collection is here!”

Among the mess of emails, the Pandemic Drawing Club notifies me that someone has shared a new artwork of theirs. A feeling of curiosity hit me when I decided to join this Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) “club” of sorts. As someone who had nothing to contribute, except for a messy stick figure, I hesitantly entered the class code onto Google Classroom, and there it was, a virtual gallery of sorts. FSSA AP art students present and curate their own works completed in quarantine.

The club, started by Mr. Twarog, an art teacher at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, focuses on the creative aspects of how students are staying busy 

“I see this as a very important opportunity for students. They can now really employ the tools and strategies that they have learned in the art department and use them to make meaning out of this crisis,” he said.

The most appealing aspects of this club are the fact that there are no grades, no rubrics, no assignments, just making pictures. Pure and simple. 

“For young artists at Sinatra, this means art-making totally divorced from school and grades,” he said.

Mr. Twarog places an emphasis on reverting back to simplistic ideals that highlight an artist creating for themselves for the sole purpose of creation. There can also be a need to create what one interprets to be a reality in this wacky, Covid-19 world.

Eli Civita, a junior art major at FSSA, took this opportunity to expand his use of mediums by designing a 3-D mask along with a persona that stemmed from creatures present in his imagination. “Mafiaelephantman,” as he describes him is a, “old, almost hard-ass, bad-ass mafia man. He walks around like he runs the place. He’s a big boss man.”

“Mafiaelephantman.” The bus stop by Eli’s house, paint on cardboard, 2020. Image courtesy of Eli Civita.

It’s a haunting photo to focus on, let alone allow further thoughts to express the reality that only “Mafiaelephantman” is there waiting. Putting ourselves in his shoes comes with ease,  as we’re all playing this waiting game, experiencing those feelings of isolation, like the ones present in the photo. There’s no one there but him, and there’s no one but ourselves with us at home.

Likewise, FSSA art student Tess McGuire explored the idea of spaces we interact with everyday by making a sink study. Quarantine amplified the feelings of routine, and simple tasks such as brushing one’s teeth became much larger than they were before.

‘Bathroom Sink.” Tess’s bathroom sink, charcoal on paper, 2020. Image courtesy of Tess McGuire.

Along with that came the value of every day things. Such as the sink handle that’s been broken since she’s been six years old.

In times of chaos, humans revert to the same old behaviors  

This gets to the fundamental question – why do we, and why have we for tens of thousands of years, made things that can be defined as art?  Because in 40,000 BC humans took the time to make images, when their immediate survival was much more precarious than it is today, we know that there was (and is) a real human need to make pictures, to make things that have symbolic meaning or function. So how do we make meaning through making things?,” asks Mr. Twarog.

This isn’t a question to be answered now, or frankly ever. Yet, to know that I as a viewer was impacted by these pieces of art made by someone I know, is enough to let me know that this pandemic isn’t a reason to feel fully alone. 

– by Valerie Rodriguez ’20