4 December 2020
As quarantine stretched out, many of us began to realize the potential that it held. In the beginning, it was mostly Animal Crossing, baking, and eating. Teachers told us to treat it as a short vacation of two to three weeks, and to continue preparing for SATs and AP tests as we would during any other school year. When quarantine grew into an indefinitely long lockdown, however, several students were struck by the realization that having their own drive was the only way to capitalize on the pandemic.
“It was pretty hard to balance all the AP classes plus trying to improve my art in a serious sort of way,” said Atholton senior Anjali Pulim of her junior year, when quarantine first started. “Which is where I feel like a lot of my lack of improvement has come from, because if I wasn’t worrying about Calculus class, I could definitely be a lot farther along.”
Pulim has been aiming to attend the California Institute of Arts for college since her freshman year. The school accepts less than a quarter of its applicants, and is known for the variety of summer camps it offers to help younger hopefuls better their skills. Having originally planned to go to a Rhode Island School of Design summer program that was canceled due to the coronavirus, she and other future applicants ended up creating their own version of the program, where they worked together via virtual video conferences to assign one another projects and deadlines for four weeks.
While working on her “bootleg CalArts camp” assignments, Pulim also launched her Etsy account “artbyjellyshop” on July 31st. The shop, which exacted two months of preparation and planning prior to its opening, offers her original art on vinyl stickers, and has garnered almost three hundred sales. Pulim responded to the August 4th Beirut warehouse explosion by creating a sticker with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the Lebanese Red Cross.
Wilde Lake senior Fin Stein was focused on a different sort of artistic endeavor. Stein is a part of the production group Schrödinger Productions that he works on with Baltimore School for the Arts students Xander Golden and Aidan Kristo. Their short film “Still Life” (accessible on YouTube), which combines live-action with animation, tells the story of a young man who reconnects with his deceased father through his childhood drawings. Originally the team had planned a film where the protagonist gets sucked into a painting at a gallery walk and becomes a two-dimensional animated drawing, but unable to access the gallery, Stein got the idea to apply the concept to a character who gets sucked into his childhood drawings.
“That way the animation is very simplistic; it’s literally the kind of stick figures you draw when you’re five, because that’s the style…I had planned this film throughout pretty much all of March, and then we get the news, of course on, I think it was a Thursday, that schools are closing down for a two weeks, and that was a problem for me because our shooting days were going to take place during one weekend, which was the weekend directly after that announcement.” Despite the beginning of quarantine, the team was able to shoot all of the live-action scenes they needed. However, rushed shooting led to suboptimal takes, so that a lot of the film’s work lay in post-production. Stein himself tracked ninety hours spent in editing and animating and film, “and that doesn’t even include all the work that the two main collaborators I had worked on animating”.
On the 28th of April, the team tuned into the film festival’s livestream to find that their film had won first place.
“That was a really exciting experience for me, and what I like about it is that I would not have been able to finish the film in time for the festival had quarantine not happened. So, in a strange way I’m thanking quarantine…within a two month period, the film literally went from ‘initial idea’ to ‘finished product’.”
Meanwhile, Wilde Lake senior Sarah Rubin was already thinking about college plans. Having completed three college essays in March that she discarded due to a lack of excitement for the prompts, she instead opted to submit a personal narrative that takes place in a therapist’s waiting room, where the “thoughts and anxieties and feelings” of two girls are revealed in flashes.
“One of them is supposed to be past me, and the other one is future me… I wanted to include a part of, you know, ‘this is who I am, this is how I think’, so you can know that I’ve grown since the past… I’m a big advocate of ‘you are more than a number’.”
Rubin has also been absorbed with personal writing endeavors. In order to grow as a writer, she will be participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where writers strive to write 50,000 words throughout November without deleting a single thing, which Rubin said “is really scary for me… I hit backspace all the time.”
Over quarantine she worked on the outline for a young adult novel, as well as conducting research for the background of the characters. Her inspirations include novelists such as John Green and Fredrik Backman, whose likes fill her bookshelf; as do dozens of other books from the young adult and science fiction genres, or any book that tells the “stories of people who’ve had a problem in their life, whether it’s cystic fibrosis, or depression, or anxiety, or being transgender”, said Rubin.
“I think it’s important to know all of these narratives, and that way you can grow as a person, relate to people better, understand people better, and it’s a way to be less judgmental– that’s the person I want to be… there’s someone who reads that book and goes ‘that’s me’”.
Atholton senior Joe Hobbs also spent his quarantine giving a voice to the voiceless. He had already spent his junior year organizing and speaking for “Fridays for Future”, a climate activism group that organizes demonstrations for students. Since then he has become one of the leading executives for the organization “Climate Cardinals”, an organization that works to make information regarding the climate activism movement more accessible for non-English speakers. He directs several departments on social media, marketing, and translations, on top of hosting his own podcast “The Future of Activism with Joe Hobbs” (streamable on all platforms) and taking speech fundamentals classes at Howard County Community College. When asked about the pressure of making the most out of quarantine, Hobbes said, “I felt it, for sure. I didn’t want to waste my time, so I tried to find more things to do… it definitely has given me an advantage. While some people, you know, played video games, I feel like I really took advantage of my free time.”
He speaks with activists in his ten- to thirty-minute podcast episodes about how they have made social changes. Guests include Nivi Achanta, the 24-year-old CEO of Soapbox Project, a website that sends its subscribers weekly e-mails containing relevant and compact information regarding climate change and how to take action, as well as Ja’Mal Green, who ran for mayor in the wake of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s murder by a white police officer, and Joshua Wong, who at 24 has already been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and received jailtime for his participation in Hong Kong street activism.“I definitely lose it talking to them, a hundred percent,” Hobbes said. “But, I don’t know, they’re really nice people and they’re great to talk to, so I just try to talk to them like I do anyone else, but they’ve done some crazy things that I couldn’t even imagine doing.”