Circumventing the lack of student access to technology and filling the void from no face-to-face interaction are tasks professors are all too familiar with since COVID-19 made an appearance. Assistant professor of graphic art and media design Kasten Searles provided a solution to these challenges in a class called “the digital page” while allowing her students to vent emotions brought on by this period in time.
“It has been fun to see what they’re capable of,” Searles said.
The digital page is a course surrounding typography and page layout design. Before the quarantine started, the next project in the class involved magazine layout. Since students in her class did not have access to the technology necessary to create a magazine design via computer, such as on Adobe Illustrator, Searles challenged her scholars to create a “QuaranZine” based on paper-oriented zine art that was popular when she was in highschool.
“In the 90s, my friends and I liked to do these ‘DIY’ zines,” Searles said.
Zines are homemade magazine pages created by cutting and pasting paper or creating hand-drawn images and words straight on the page. It uses the concepts of magazine design and layout without requiring a computer. Students can create zines out of what they have wherever they are, while learning an artstyle still used in the art community today. Required items simply include paper, a writing utensil, and possibly scissors and glue or tape.
“We have to make do with what we have,” Searles said.
Searles assigned her students to create their zine about what life is like living in quarantine, hence the project name QuaranZine. She wanted a way to see what her pupils were going through since she could not check up on them in person.
“I was thankful to read their stories,” Searles said. “I felt so connected with them.”
Students were thankful to write them as well. Since Henderson discontinued class meetings, graphic design major Sierra Garcia has lost her job and struggles to keep a routine with her online classwork. She tried not to focus on making her artwork look fancy but worked on expressing her feelings so that those reading it might relate and know they are not alone.
“I cut up pieces of my artwork to express the brokenness I feel,” Garcia said. “It helped me realize things are going to get better.”
Though Garcia has faced great obstacles, social distancing has allowed her to better appreciate time spent with her professors and classmates. She cut out letters from her friends’ showcards from art exhibits they had displayed in the Reynolds Fine Arts building to honor them. The contrasting warm and cool colors in her zine express the different emotions that have filled her life lately.
“Good things will happen,” Garcia said. “We just have to be patient and hang tight.”
Despite quarrels that come with exorbitant amounts of time together, Garcia has also more so realized how important her husband and her dog are to her. Her rat terrier named Chivito, which is spanish for “little goat,” has filled her quarantined days with laughter and cuddles. She and her husband named him Chivito because he jumps around like a little goat.
“It is hard thinking of how things have changed,” sophomore graphic design major Erica Iraheta said.
Iraheta, another of Searles’ zine artists, based her hand-drawn artwork on the lack of food and necessary supplies on food shelves due to panicked people stocking up. Formerly an employee at the Caddo cafeteria, she lost her main source of income when campus activity ceased. Iraheta expresses that not everyone can afford to buy a large amount of food at one time, so when others do, those who are scraping by are forced to choose from the less desirables.
“Creating the zine helped me to think more about how my actions are affecting others, especially right now,” Iraheta said.
Iraheta produced the drawing of a person in a hazmat suit to depict how some people dress funny trying to protect themselves from the virus. While at the grocery store, she has seen individuals wearing plastic bags on their head, socks on their hands, and even underwear as a face mask. She believes the hazmat suit personifies how people are feeling inside.
“It was weird to create a magazine page and not have my teacher see it face-to-face,” Iraheta said.
While she wants to see her professors in-person, Iraheta believes they are doing the best they can under the circumstances. She is grateful to spend time with her family and help her mom make face masks for others.
“It has been nice to be home and slow down a little bit,” Iraheta said.
Searles is impressed by her students’ zines and looks forward to the day she can express her pride to them in person.
“This is something that anyone can make,” Searles said. “I would love to see other people on campus make zines. If anyone is interested they can definitely get in touch with me.”