COVID-19 Shapes 2020 Fall BFA Exhibition

Exhibit from Fall Bachelor of Fine Arts. Photo by Emily McCarthy/The Jambar

By Emily McCarthy

The 2020 Fall Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Exhibition looked a bit different last year. Although there were stricter capacity limits in the galleries and no reception, students made the best of the exhibition last semester.

Claudia Berlinski, director of McDonough Museum of Art, said the museum tried to make arrangements for staggered entry for students to bring their families and friends. Due to new guidelines, however, they were unable to last semester.

“When our county went back to the red COVID level, all unnecessary events were canceled,” she said. “In a normal year, we would have … a big reception with food and we would have all the students who are in the show invite all of their friends and their family … we could have up to 150 people sometimes.”

Berlinski said she sympathizes with all students graduating this year. 

“It is sad for the students because this is such a huge event for the culmination of their time here at the university,” she said. “If people could come in and see the show while we’re open … it would make the students feel good that people are coming in.”

Lexi Chismar, a graphic and interactive design student who graduated in the fall, said the 2020 lockdown partially inspired her work, including some pieces featured in the fall exhibition. The extra time also allowed her to explore new mediums, including digital art. 

“The positivity stickers were illustrations I did during the shutdown and they were really branded to bring myself some inspiration and positivity as well as practice hand lettering,” she said. “I thought, ‘Everyone is probably feeling the way I am during these troubling times,’ so I made them into stickers to be handed out to bring people some positivity.” 

Chismar brought her coffee-themed stickers to the exhibition, inspired by her daily morning cup of coffee. 

She said she planned to start her career locally in package design and illustration. Eventually, she wants to move to a bigger city. For now, she sells her work on her Etsy account.

Taylor Valerio, another graphic and interactive design student who graduated in the fall, said some of her work in the exhibition was inspired by the pandemic and her desire to help others. She created a line of stickers after the popular Baltimore therapy rottweiler Loki, which will all be donated to Maryland hospitals.

“I wanted this to be some method of how I could help patients,” she said. “When COVID hit in March, I didn’t have the sewing skills to help make masks, so I figured I could use the design skills and assets I have to make these designs.”

Velerio’s project called the “Revolution: Speed Energy Packaging Series,” was also featured in the exhibition. The project is a line of energy drink bottles designed to reflect her family’s experience with the sport of drag racing. She plans on taking after her father and grandfather by starting drag racing in a few years.