Safety! Art! Together!

Giving “social distancing” a more stylized meaning, SCU art students beautified safety circles on campus.

Safety! Art! Together!
Giving “social distancing” a more stylized meaning, SCU art students beautified safety circles on campus. The project will evolve as conditions change. / Image by Jim Gensheimer

Add three cases of spray paint, one small group of SCU  art students, one grassy quad in front of Swig Hall, one sunny afternoon, and mix.

The results are a colorful way to safely circle up. The artistic recipe was inspired by Tosha Stimage’s work that transformed the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco into a living canvas for COVID-19-era socializing. Stimage painted bright designs in circles previously sprayed on the grass to help parkgoers stay the recommended six feet apart. With a pandemic raging, such measures to help people maintain social distance became commonplace over summer 2020.

Art lecturer Ryan Carrington was motivated to do something similar for the 200 or so students remaining at Santa Clara following local stay-at-home orders so they could enjoy a significant perk—the beautiful campus, filled with palm trees and sunshine.

Carrington reached out to the group charged with managing the University grounds, including Chris Shay, the former assistant vice president for University Operations.

Circle Art

“They were like, ‘If you can get the inspired students, we can get the paint,’” says Carrington, whose own art repurposes familiar textiles.

Since the artists had isolated with family or roommates for so long, the project promised a sort of rare group energy—masked and from a distance, of course.

“It’s a cool connection. It’s these small little projects that have added up meaningfully during quarantine,” Carrington says. “Just to have that kind of camaraderie.”

And so it was when the group met at the quad.

They had a large canvas to work with—the artists painted around the outside of the circles, leaving a lot of round negative space to keep the paint from ending up on clothing.

The group didn’t sketch or plan, deciding to “wing it” and see where the finished piece landed. And it’s an evolving canvas. Since foot traffic and rain wash away the paint, any piece they create there is fleeting.

“Hopefully we get a couple more cracks at this in the future,” Carrington says.

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