U of A student uses talent to help front line workers

KNWA

“It feels surreal,” Fleming said. “You do years worth of planning to put together an exhibition and you try to speculate what could go wrong and how you can resolve certain situations."

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A student at the University of Arkansas is using her talent to help those in the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shelby Fleming has spent most of the academic year focused on her master’s thesis art exhibition scheduled for late spring, but with the events of the COVID-19 crisis, Fleming’s priorities have shifted to a new normal, according to a press release from the University of Arkansas (UofA).

Joining a group of more than 83 artists, Fleming is part of the COVID-19 Mask Maker Challenge hosted by Arkansas Arts and Fashion.

The group has made more than 30 pocket-filter masks that will be used by health care workers and plans to make more, the release states.

Arkansas Arts and Fashion partnered with professional health care workers to create the pattern ensuring that the masks created will meet the health care safety standards.

The organization is providing fabric and instructions on how to make the masks, and it has drop off locations in Rogers and Springdale, according to the release.

Fleming is a graduate student in School of Art of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Her Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition, titled “Gut Feeling,” was set to open March 30, the release states.

However, the transition to online classes and postponement of all on-campus events this semester due to the COVID-19 outbreak postponed her exhibition until summer 2020.

“It feels surreal,” Fleming said in the release. “You do years worth of planning to put together an exhibition and you try to speculate what could go wrong and how you can resolve certain situations. Like many other artists in my position, I never imagined my exhibition would be postponed due to a pandemic.”

In the midst of making masks, Fleming shared that she couldn’t help but see how the current situation coincides with her current body of work in an unexpected way, according to the release.

Her M.F.A. thesis exhibition, “Gut Feeling,” is about the viewer’s experience with their body. The forms in space reference the body while the physical curates space of the gallery.

When the exhibition opens she hopes the audience will consider their own body in relation to what is being seen through scale, sculptural placement and sensory experience, the release states.

With the new development of social distancing being added to everyone’s lives, she sees a new layer of context in the exhibition as everyone across the world is taking time to reflect on the string that connects us despite our differences and our bodies.

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