Emma Stoolmaker, "En Route, 2020" 

Mixed Media Collage and Acrylic  

32 x 48 inches 

Woven together from letters sent by friends the artist met in Rome, this project is a culmination of communication during a global pandemic. Painted over the weaving is a depiction of an arch that they would all pass under their way to classes. A faint city map connects these fragments of ephemeral memory together. Resembling a postcard, this piece has imagery on one side and messaging on the other that includes the mailed items the artist received. The final image has been transformed into functional post cards that the artist mailed out to all those she met abroad. 



While artmaking is intrinsic to my way of thinking, communicating, and processing, it was the last thing I felt inclined to do when pandemic was first setting in. I was on my way home from a place I felt I truly belonged. It was as if all of my newfound independence and vigor were replaced with an empty sense of blocked opportunity and guarded living. Deciding to apply for this grant was a personal commitment to reclaim my art to my current situation. Rather than creating to escape and temporarily liberate me from isolation and lost experience, it was time to sit in my current situation and unpack what I had truly lost as a result of the extenuating circumstances. Not only was my project beneficial for my own processing of emotion and hardship, but also to those who participated in sending me media to include in the final piece.  For my friends and I, this was a more formalized way to say goodbye to a place we were just starting to get to know. 


What gave the biggest support was the notion that this project was centered in process, not progress. Rather than fixating on a final product or a due date, I had time to articulate my concept, remotely collaborate with my friends in new ways, and synthesize material in a way that was meaningful to me. Its intention was to share my experience, not to be spectacle to the input of others. This was truly freeing – my abstracted response became far more important than the physical manifestation of the piece. Aside from covering the costs of the project itself, including shipment costs, materials, and labor, this grant has aided in me moving from my family home to an independent living situation, one that allows me to continue learn and create in a new environment with people from which I have been distanced. 

Providing funding such as this promotes the idea that creators are valued. Recognizing the triumphs and tribulations surrounding our current positionalities in a pandemic validates our responses and gives room for us to experience rather than simply surviving. I wish that creatives are supported in ways such as this in the future to encourage physical responses to unprecedented lived experiences.