Dickinson State University professor Debora Dragseth is spending her quarantine painting small canvases to send to her graduating students.
"In the past, I have completed a work of art, usually a painting, but sometimes a photograph of campus, and had it recreated on cardstock for graduation cards for the DSU seniors that I knew who were graduating," Dragseth said.
This year, she didn't stop after the first 2.5" x 2.5" painting.
"By the time I had done three, I thought, 'Why not keep going?' My color palate is pretty simple: blue, gray, white, black and silver. Blue and gray are DSU’s school colors. So although they are all unique, they have a common theme," Dragseth said.
Once she finishes painting, she'll attach the canvas to a card in which she will write a personal note.
"I think about the students as I am painting," Dragseth said. "The challenges, the conversations, the fun and most importantly, their dreams for the future ... By painting them each a small piece of personal art, I thought that they might get a sense of how much our students mean to us at DSU. Ours is a small campus and we often say, 'Small community-big opportunity.'"
Just days ago, one of her students told her this semester has been the longest in his life.
"Well, I can’t say that I disagree!" Dragseth said. "Lots of uncertainty and anxiety. I hope that they see these small gifts as a token of my esteem for them as they have taken on the challenge of distance learning and have, in sports terms: run through the tape."
Dragseth finds the painting cathartic.
"I like the tiny canvases," she said. "Even as a kid, I liked miniatures things. The small canvases are fun because I am, at heart, a impatient person. Using acrylics paint and a blow dryer, I can move quite quickly. Also, if I make a mistake or think a canvas doesn’t look up to standard, I can quickly paint over the entire work, and begin again."
The painting, which she does during her lunch hour or when she needs to take a mental break, helps ease the strange sense of boredom.
"'Quarantine boredom' in my job as a college professor has been perplexing," Dragseth said. "I don’t know if anyone else is feeling this way: Busy and bored at the same time. I have plenty to keep me busy during the day—answering questions from students, building exams that can be taken online, recording lectures, grading papers, developing study guides. Yet, at the same time, there is a weird sense of boredom, for lack of any other word."