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Identity and the Artist: 2020 Our Lives in Mask

Noah Goldwyn with Mask

The Rockwell Museum collaborated with the Corning-Painted Post High School Learning Center (HSLC) and Teaching Artist Meghan O’Toole to provide an adapted version of the annual Identity and the Artist (I&A) program. This vital program is designed to foster creativity and provide an artistic outlet for students to explore aspects of their cultural and personal identities, as well as build relationships within their classroom environments and the community.

For 2020: Our Lives in Mask, students explored how we express aspects of our identities while wearing a mask, either through a physical cloth mask or a metaphorical emotional mask. Since we are all wearing masks every day, while we live through the pandemic to protect ourselves from COVID-19, this project provided students with the opportunity to reveal their personalities and share their perspectives through the pandemic experience. Students were able to participate in a new online program format that integrated social components designed to unite everyone together as we face adversity in an unprecedented time.

We are now forced to cover up half our faces in public, and we do not leave our home without a mask. We are physically masking our bodies, our facial gestures and expressions that reveal so much about who we are. We may also wear a metaphorical mask to cover up something about our identity, and sometimes we hide things about ourselves to others, which can be very isolating. How does wearing a physical mask add another layer and contribute to the ways in which we wear masks every day? What’s masked that you may want to reveal about yourself now that you are not able to?

The entire HSLC student body met on video sessions with Rockwell Educator Amy Ruza and Teaching Artist Meghan O’Toole to connect virtually, view artwork in The Rockwell collection, have meaningful discussions about the artwork, and explore how artists use different mediums to interpret the world through their own unique lens. HSLC students and teachers created their own masks inspired by The Rockwell’s collection and wrote personal monologues reflecting on their pandemic experience. Using textiles, fabric markers and mixed media materials, they incorporated nature elements and symbols into their mask designs to communicate obstacles and challenges they are currently facing in their lives. Individual student check-in sessions were conducted during a three-week time to support students through the project and guide them with the writing component.

A collaborative PowerPoint presentation was created that features selfie mask photographs, empowering monologues and audio recordings so that you can hear the voice of the narrator behind the mask.

Be inspired as you view 2020 Our Lives in Mask!

This learning experience was designed to build confidence, provide emotional support and bring awareness to the school community of the positive growth that is possible for youth through an empowering artistic endeavor. Students gained an understanding of how a museum can be a valuable resource for academic work and respite from the world.

This project was made possible in part by support from The Triangle Fund and Great Circle Foundation, Inc.

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