The Importance of Art During COVID-19

Written By: Josh Garcia ’21

When I looked at my class syllabus last January, it didn’t have a disclaimer saying, “Prepare yourself for a deadly, life-changing pandemic in the spring.”  

Josh Garcia ’21

But when COVID-19 struck our country, it struck dangerously fast. Travel bans had to be quickly implemented, schools needed to be shut down, and businesses needed to adjust to new work flows. There was no time for planning.

When Wabash’s classes moved online, the structure of learning changed and art majors found themselves wondering, “How are we going to make art at home?”

We faced many obstacles and our professors did a great job with being flexible, communicating, and executing modified plans for the remainder of the semester. However, what they did a great job expressing the importance of art during a time like this.

Art forever will be important to our society. People appreciate art in different ways — whether it’s music, dance, poetry, drawings, videos, paintings, sculptures, or even graffiti. Art has no barriers, and continues to be a medium to express feelings, thoughts, and experiences.

I had an abundance of emotions circling through me during the at-home quarantine and transition back to in-person learning. But mostly, I felt stuck. It felt like I had all the time in the world, yet had no clue where my time went. It felt like I had no control, and I like to be in control.

Art Professors Annie Strader and Matt Weedman encouraged us to channel our emotions and use it as fuel to produce art to stop thinking so much and start doing. They knew there was so much potential that could not go to waste, and they got it out of us.

A screenshot of Josh Garcia’s video work. View more of his artwork as a Wabash student on his YouTube channel.

Creating art gives me the space to reflect on any thought, feeling, or experience — whether it be the frustrations from COVID-19, or my obsession over a certain genre of music — it allows me to create something that shows a piece of who I am. I create because it’s exciting and it relieves me of any weight that I may be carrying. To me, it’s a form of self-therapy. I get to speak to and better understand myself, which ultimately leads to me effectively create artwork that articulates my ideas.

I now understand myself in a way that I could not have prior to COVID and better yet, I am able to express myself in a unique way that is me. I discovered that visualizing my emotions not only conveys them, but also releases them. This mentality will endure far beyond graduation, as I continue to work on myself and my art.

Reunited After Nearly 30 Years

Last semester, Wabash’s Advancement Office received an unexpected letter from a woman in Hamilton, Montana. It was addressed to “whomever can help” and contained photos of a 1970 class ring.

“I have a class ring from your College, ‘Class of 70,’” the note from Delores Meuchel stated. “The initials G.A.J. are engraved on the inside …  I would like to return it to the owner.”

Aaron Selby ’06, director of annual giving and advancement services, got to work and began tracking down the ring’s owner. He examined the attached photos and noticed Delta Tau Delta’s letters featured. From there, Selby used the Wabash Alumni Directory to look up members of the Class of 1970 who had those initials and were brothers of the fraternity.

It took 28 years, but Greg Jackson ’70 was reunited with his Wabash class ring.

“This search quickly identified one person and I reached out to Gregory A. Jackson of Helena, Montana, to see if this was his ring,” Selby recalled. “After talking with Greg by phone, he informed me that he believed this was his class ring and was amazed.”

Jackson’s ring had been missing for 28 years.

“Anytime I would open a box or go through things again, I would look to see if I might somehow find it, but it never surfaced,” Jackson said of the ring, which went missing after a separation and move. “It has a special meaning to me and I was heartbroken when it disappeared.

“Over the years I always held out the hope that maybe it would show up.”

And it’s a good thing Jackson never lost that hope.

Selby put Jackson in contact with Meuchel, who lived about 150 miles away.

Meuchel told Jackson that she had purchased a “box of junk” from a garage sale in Elliston, Montana, about 20 miles from Helena. The box was full of aluminum cans, pull tabs and a ring.

“She was mildly intrigued and put it in a jewelry box where it sat for a couple of years,” Jackson said. “She was going through the jewelry box fairly recently and thought maybe she could see who the ring belonged to.”

The ring was eventually mailed and returned back to Jackson around Thanksgiving.

“It’s crazy to think that my ring made a journey around the state of Montana and back to me after all this time,” the Wabash alumnus said.

Jackson, who works as an attorney, said he’s thankful for Meuchel taking the time to track him down and for the College officials who helped facilitate the reunion.

“Graduating from Wabash is a big deal,” Jackson said. “To have that piece of my life back is just absolutely phenomenal. I can’t express enough appreciation.”