VALENCIA, Calif. – Most artists buy paper, but CalArts student Jennie E. Park prefers to make it. Since COVID-19 hit, it’s been difficult to access materials like paints and canvas, so it’s a useful skill she picked up while growing up in public housing.
“At the time, there was really no materials that were available to me other than paper that my dad brought home from his office that we were to recycle to use as napkins or to use in making crafts and I think that kind of improvisational habit or necessity was a survival mechanism that I developed early on,” said Park.
A conceptual artist, COVID-19 forced Park to think about her choices. Not only did galleries and museums close in mid-March, but CalArts closed as well too. This left her few choices.
“Not having access to studios, to labs, to all of that stuff that we were accustomed to and so suddenly you know, couldn’t access anymore, really put a lot of us in the position of questioning the utility or the value of pursuing art during a time like this,” said Park.
When nonessential bias impeded relief for artists while many were out of work, MOZAIK Philanthropy announced the Future Art Awards, a competition inviting artists to share work that reimagines the pandemic and alternative futures. Park applied right away.
“Culturally, we’re so wired to think that only the things that we can grasp tangibly with our hands you know are the things that are necessary,” said Park. “But I think it's just recalibrating society to recognize that the arts and creativity and being in that energy of imagination is just as essential and vital to health.”
Out of 1,100 artists, Jennie was selected as one of the 10 winners. Dawn Mendelson was one of the judges.
“When the world shut down, everyone turned to art so it’s obviously essential,” said Dawn Mendelson, Managing Director of the arts organization Piece By Piece. “It’s always very frustrating to me that it’s one of the first things cut, but it’s also one of the first things that people turn to in times of crisis.”
The prize was $2,000 and inclusion in a virtual exhibition, enough to keep Park motivated and to stay creative.
“As an art student, I just felt completely kind of overwhelmed and surprised that an opportunity like this could even exist or that my work could resonate in this way,” said Park.