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SVA Faculty: What I Did During Summer Quarantine
September 28, 2020
A 3 panel image. Left: A hand holds up a small green bud in front of blurred out books about plants that lay on the ground; middle: Abstract illustration of a person standing and facing away, with their arms wrapped around their torso. They wear something red on their head.; Right: the view from a hammock at night

Yes: It was an unusual summer. But if creative, curious minds are good at anything, it is adaptation, and making the most of new, even trying circumstances.


For many SVA faculty, these past few months of social distancing provided an opportunity to hunker down, focus and work on skills and hobbies both new and old. Here are how a few spent their summer.

A two-panel image of two photographs. From left: A hand holds up a small green bud in front of blurred-out books; a close-up of Orange Glory flowers.
Credit: Angelica Vergel

"During lockdown, I realized how much I took for granted the greenery that New York City has to offer. When summer came, I took out some flower and tree identification books and ventured to different parks. What I found interesting is that there are many kinds of medicinal plants that grow here, especially in the cracks of the sidewalk. However, no one should ingest these plants due to high levels of pollution exposure!"

Angelica Vergel, faculty member and assistant to the chair, MFA Computer Arts

"I was lucky enough to be in the midst of a big graphic novel project when the pandemic started. It's so labor-intensive that it filled up my days and left little time for too much worrying. It also provided a much-needed structure during these trying times—I try to draw at least two pages a day!"

Koren Shadmi (BFA 2006 Illustration), faculty member, BFA Illustration

"Since March, I have involved myself in a number of activities aimed at making a more inclusive design society. Among the several different engagements, I believe the most rewarding is the Student Summer Workshop [hopefully to kick off in summer 2022]. This program will attempt to prepare a greater number of Black and Latinx students for our program here at SVA and into the profession in general. This project will be run fully online and because of this current crisis, I have learned—as has the entire world—that we can communicate effectively and across cultures and disciplines, online and in fine fashion."

Jack Travis, faculty member, BFA Interior Design: Built Environments

 A two-panel image of two photos. From left: a close-up of a compact solar panel with a white cord plugged into a USB port on the bottom; a man sitting in an orange arm chair looking at his phone, which is plugged into a compact solar panel hanging in the window.
Credit: Krystal Persaud / Grouphug Solar

"With my [window solar panel] company Grouphug, we started doing weekly webinars and Zoom calls with customers to get to know them better and make more personal connections. If it weren't for lockdown, we might have not realized that was a great alternative to in-person meetings!


"We are also setting up a small fabrication studio in Brooklyn, to be able to prototype and manufacture our solar panels locally. Setting up a global supply chain through COVID-19 was a huge wake-up call. I also started going for a daily morning walk in the park—a huge help in terms of starting the day off right and feeling connected to a larger community. I definitely was going stir crazy working from home all the time."

Krystal Persaud, faculty member, MFA Interaction Design

"This summer, I recorded an audio course on 'design thinking' for Knowable.fyi. Knowable courses are somewhere between podcasts and audiobooks, but also something new as well. I learned a lot practicing my audio production skills as well as learning how to write and adapt my teaching to an emerging medium."

Lee-Sean Huang, faculty member, MFA Design for Social Innovation

"I did lots of free webinars where educators were offering and getting support from each other, listening and sharing with the goal of fostering antiracist teaching practice.


"I worked on my art, and had a friend in Seattle reach out to me to send her drawings, which she hung on the fence in front of her house every day for two weeks. It was something she wanted to do for her neighbors, to bring in some stimulus from another part of the world, in a time when people are feeling a bit stuck.


"I also worked with the group Art Against Displacement to organize a fundraiser for a city council candidate who I am supporting in 2021. With the national election coming quickly, it can be overwhelming, but smaller races and local issues are a good way to start getting involved."

Jamie Chan, faculty member, MAT Art Education

A three-panel image of three photographs, all taken on an apartment balcony. From left: a planter filled with green leaves and a white llama stuffed animal; a sunset beyond the city skyline; the view from a hammock at night.
Credit: Lotte Marie Allen

"Over the summer, I created a little garden on my balcony, inspired by my mom's love of urban gardening. Often, I would wake up and visit blue-and-white morning glories and orange nasturtiums. Sometimes I watched the sunset or called friends while lying in my hammock, and I had a bird's eye view of the helicopters, protests and fireworks most nights."

Lotte Marie Allen, faculty member, MFA Computer Arts

A two-panel image of two paintings. From left: a person standing and facing away, with their arms wrapped around their torso; a person face down with their arms wrapped around their neck tightly.
Credit: Tobi Kahn

"I have been committed and steadfast in the pursuit of the redemptive possibilities of art in all mediums including painting, sculpture, meditative spaces and photography. During this time of COVID-19, I have been working on a series based on the figure in isolation. These paintings will be part of an upcoming solo exhibition, 'FORMATION: Images of the Body by Tobi Kahn,' opening virtually on December 15 at the Dadian Gallery of the Henry Luce III Center for the Arts and Religion, at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C."

Tobi Kahn, faculty member, BFA Fine Arts

A two-panel image of photos of a chocolate Bundt cake covered in a dripping chocolate frosting on an orange plate. The left photo is taken from the side; the right photo is taken from above.
Credit: Tom P. Ashe

"Between many Zoom sessions, our summer semester and prepping for two September exhibitions and our fall semester; there hasn't been a lot of extra time. But during quarantine, like many people, my husband and I have done much more cooking and baking—and sometimes photographing the results. We have also finally watched Steven Universe [created by Rebecca Sugar (BFA 2009 Animation)] and Dark, both of which I'd recommend!"

Tom P. Ashe, chair, MPS Digital Photography