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Final art project explains Graduation 2020

Next week, Grace Ann Wise will attend graduation, online, with fellow Appalachian State University graduates. The Washington native will graduate with a major in English, a creative writing concentration, and a minor in Studio Art — a combination leading to a final project that may resonate with every graduate of 2020.

After spring break, all of Wise’s App State classes were altered to accommodate online learning, some meeting on Zoom every other day. Others, such as this elective art class, were restructured entirely, trading a series of smaller projects throughout the semester for two larger projects.

The assignment for this class: an open-ended invitation to create a piece in response to how life has changed because of COVID-19. The result is “Empty Auditorium,” a haunting collage of poetry and people pictured alone in places that should be filled with crowds.

“I am fortunate enough that this is this only thing affected in my life — it obviously could be a lot worse — but it’s kind of the first thing I thought of, was graduating and not having a proper graduation,” Wise said.

The piece conveys what many graduates may be feeling — a sense of loss, a diminishing of a major life event under the weight of a global pandemic. In that, all graduates are connected, including Wise’s older sister, Lauren, also graduating from St. Andrews University with an MBA.

“There’s definitely a connection. I feel very connected with this class even though I’ve literally never seen most of them, because of all this,” Wise said.

But for all those not a part of the Class of 2020, Wise said she hopes her piece will show people what this year’s seniors may be going through.

“Maybe it will give some insight to people who aren’t graduating, to how we’re feeling during this time. It is an important accomplishment, but it’s kind of hard to celebrate anything when the world is going crazy,” Wise said.

Wise said her goal is to one day support herself though her two loves: writing and painting.

Click HERE to see a large version of Grace Ann Wise’s artwork.