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Endicott alumna Emily de la RochaEmily de la Rocha ’20 just earned her B.F.A. in Art Therapy from Endicott College’s School of Visual & Performing Arts and is already using that education to translate her experiences during the pandemic into visual work. Recently, she was included in an article in the Hartford Courant called, “‘Essential Voices of the Pandemic’ describes the health crisis in poetry of Connecticut people,” alongside her mother’s poetry.

The collaborative poetry/art feature in the Hartford Courant was a first for de la Rocha. She says, “My mother and I have not officially collaborated before, and even this new collaboration was kind of a coincidence! My mom and I created our pieces separately from each other, and once they were both completed we realized that her writing and my painting dealt with similar themes and emotions. We have always talked about pairing up my artwork and her poetry, but this was the first time it really seemed to come together!”

Staying Motivated

Though she is producing work during this time, it is not without effort. “Staying focused on my artwork during the pandemic has been really difficult,” says de la Rocha. When I first came home I was still working on my senior thesis collection, so I had a sense of motivation while working to complete those paintings. Once I presented my thesis and graduated, I allowed myself to take a little break from my work. I am now getting back into it with commissions, and I plan on continuing to create more self-portraits.”

She continues, “Endicott's artistic community was always a huge motivator for me, and I am still getting used to not having my fellow artists around. I am trying to spend at least a few hours every day in my studio to regain my focus and fall back into an art making routine.”

Looking Inward & Trusting the Process 

De la Rocha has always worked in oils and focused on portraiture. She has been moving into a slightly more specific direction since stay-at-home advisories started: self-portraiture. She says, “I switched to focusing more on self-portraiture to help capture, as well as process, my own emotions about the world’s current state.”

Many believe that art is less about the end result as it is about the act of creation. De la Rocha agrees. She says, “My suggestion to those who need to express themselves right now is to not to be worried about what it is going to look like at the end. Let yourself follow your impulses and create what you are feeling! I can almost guarantee that you will feel better afterwards.”

The state of the world is a primary influence at present. De la Rocha thinks that she and other artists are living in an important time where art as therapy is paramount. “I think that this time is unique and important for artists,” she says. “Art is a form of expression that can be deeply personal for both the artist and the viewer.”

“Right now, it seems as if the world has reached a boiling point, first with the COVID-19 quarantine, and now with the Black Lives Matter movement. It is a time for us as artists to capture the world around us because history is unfolding before our eyes.”

Growing as an Artist

As an artist, de la Rocha feels that the pandemic has helped her grow and learn. She says, “A lot of what I have learned during this pandemic has been about myself as a person as well who I am as an artist. Quarantine eliminated all of my everyday distractions, so I was forced to look inward. I finally had the time to process what I was going through and what I had lost.”

She concludes, “I started to step away from my devices and spend more time reading and outdoors than I had in years. I am also learning about how I, as a white woman, can be anti-racist and work to help support the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a huge educational moment for all of America, and I believe that we all need to do our part in it. I think that the past few months have helped me grow significantly, and I plan to keep grasping at every possible learning opportunity that I come across.”