If, for the moment, you can’t see works of art in person, why not recreate them with objects found around your house? That’s what La Salle University’s Mey-Yen Moriuchi, Ph.D., suggested to her students when classes shifted primarily online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moriuchi, an associate professor of art history at La Salle, drew inspiration from the Getty Museum Challenge, which prompted social media followers of the famed Los Angeles museum to recreate famous works of art using household objects. Similarly, Moriuchi asked students to recreate works of art that are part of the La Salle University Art Museum’s collection, dubbing the extra-credit assignment the Art Recreation Challenge.
“I offered the Art Recreation Challenge as a way for students to engage with a creative art activity that was going viral on social media during the global pandemic,” said Moriuchi, who offered the assignment in her summer courses and extended the challenge into the fall. “I have been surprised at how students use the objects in their homes during quarantine with such ingenuity. Students have responded in extremely creative and fun ways.”
Students aren’t just limited to household objects in the Art Recreation Challenge. Humans in the home are fair game, too. Moriuchi pointed to the recreation of Maria Brooks’ 1884 painting The Letter by education major Gabriel Rappa, ’23, as one of her favorites to feature another person, in this case, Rappa’s cousin.
“The Letter depicts a young, blonde woman seated in an armchair looking straight out at the viewer,” said Moriuchi. “Having just read the letter in her right hand, her expression is a mix of sadness and longing. Gabriel used his cousin Abby as the model, and she beautifully captures the same facial expression.”
For Moriuchi’s Art History class during the summer sessions, Biology major Lauren Fenn, ’23, recreated Theodoros Stamos’s 1947 painting Sea Forms with a rock, a stick, a leaf, a small cardboard box, and a tissue, using a hot glue gun to hold those objects together.
“It was a fun and creative assignment,” said Fenn. “Professor Moriuchi gave us the opportunity to explore the La Salle Art Museum and be creative about art. This project really intertwined ways to describe art and what can art be.”
Following Moriuchi’s lead, several faculty members also have implemented the Art Recreation Challenge into their curriculum. Among them—English professor Kevin Harty, Ph.D., who is including it as a graded assignment in his fall First-Year Seminar course, Literature and Film Ask: Who Am I? Harty also will offer it in his spring course, Western Tradition in Literature Since 1700.
“I am an art museum addict,” said Harty. “I regularly visit art museums around the world whenever I can, and I encourage my students to do so, as well. This is one way of calling attention to art museums at a time when many are closed and losing much needed revenues. We need art and the museums that house it, and so the challenge essentially serves an educational, an artistic, a cultural, and a social purpose.”