Mastering the Art of Quarantine: Social Distancing Through Creation and Exploration

by Sophia Sakellariou, Production Editor 

With all of the newfound free time that quarantine has afforded those who are not at work on the front lines, many have struggled with how to fill their time. After all, Netflix can only fill the void for so long. That is why it is the perfect time to start a new hobby or pick up an old one, and fall in love with creating again. A few students have mastered the art of quarantine by making art or enjoying the natural art found all around us. 

Mackenzie Conroy, a junior political science major with minors in urban studies and digital arts has been using her time previously spent on Manhattan’s campus painting.

“I have been painting for as long as long as I can remember,” Conroy said. “All of my birthday presents always involved art and for career day in kindergarten I dressed up as my art teacher.” 

Her work is inspired by everyday life, beginning with fruits and vegetables she started painting in a high school studio class, to more recently, people. Women are a big subject of her work and she experiments with fun colors for them and their surroundings. Conroy said even though her subjects have branched beyond produce, she sticks to the same color schemes so all of her work looks cohesive. 

“Anyone who’s ever seen my class notes knows that all I do is doodle, so a lot of the paintings I make start off as things I think of during school,” Conroy said. “I like painting so much because it doesn’t matter if it comes out perfect or not. As long as I’m enjoying what I’m doing that’s all that really matters and I can always rely on my grandparents to like it even if no one else does.” 

Women are often the subject of Conroy’s work. She enjoys playing with the colors between them and their surroundings. MACKENZIE CONROY/ COURTESY

Like many, Conroy has found time in quarantine to be frustrating with online classes and the great shake up in routines. Painting has been her outlet, filling entire days at a time since once she picks up a project, it’s difficult to step away as she immerses herself in the leisure activity she loves. 

“Having an escape where I can focus on one thing for like 5 hours and complete it is very satisfying,” Conroy said. “I also have way more freetime now and all of the supplies that I couldn’t fit into a dorm room. While I’ve been home I remembered what an important part of my life art is and I’ve actually decided to pick up a digital media arts minor for my senior year.”



For some, art is not made, but can be found outdoors. Junior marketing major Michael Notarbartolo has capitalized on the social distance mandate by filling his time doing something he loves– hiking. 

“I am a firm believer in the cross section between nature and spirituality, so I really feel an almost ethereal connection to nature when I hike,” Notarbartolo said. “It really gives me a sense of grounding and provides me with an ultimate feeling of clarity that I can’t describe in words. I’ll sometimes break down in tears because of how damn amazing it all is.”

Notarbartolo began hiking during his senior year of high school, taking inspiration from his AP Environmental Studies class. When the weather was nice, him and his friends would pile into a car and cruise through the Hudson Valley looking for new trails and adventures. Their colleagues at school even labeled them the “Mountain Goats” and “Hiking Squad.” 

“I was so fascinated by the inner workings of nature and the environment, and really how the earth is so unforgiving, yet so phenomenal at the same time,” Notarbartolo said. “It feels as if I am completely disconnected from society, but still connected to a sense of community. Where everything that surrounds me talks and feels like a dream.”  

To Notarbartolo, hiking is a great means of social distance. Although disconnected from society, he feels a sense of community in the nature around him. MICHAEL NOTARBARTOLO/COURTESY

Notarbartolo has experienced this poetic journey throughout the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions. In love with this region, it’s hard for him to choose a favorite trail, but said the Coxing Trail on Mohonk Mountain in New Paltz, Overlook Mountain in Woodstock, and Breakneck Ridge in Cold Spring, hold a special place in his heart. 

Notarbartolo hopes everyone takes this time to go out and explore a bit of what nature has to offer. 

“I feel that we’re all rooted from nature and there exists a sort of ecological spirit inside us that we must connect with from time to time,” Notarbartolo said. 

There’s nothing like finding love in an old hobby to fill copious amounts of free time. However, there is something to be said for the excitement of finding a new one and the joys and pitfalls of being a novice. Senior secondary education major Megan Lawlor has picked up her knitting needles during quarantine after learning to knit this past February. Learning the bulk of her knowledge from Youtube tutorials, the greatest lessons came from a lot of trial and effort. 

“Since I just learned to knit, I’ve basically only ever knitted during the quarantine so it’s given me the time to expand on my skills,” Lawlor said. “I also sew clothing so I’ve always been a fan of creating clothing from scratch. I love giving handmade gifts As corny as it sounds, there’s something special about spending time working on a gift for a loved one, especially if you can’t be with them physically.”

Lawlor learned how to knit in February and has honed her craft during quarantine. MEGAN LAWLOR/ COURTESY

Lawlor has found knitting to be a great activity to help pass the time in quarantine. She’s currently knitting a shawl for a costume she plans to wear next year at New York Comic Con, “assuming it still happens.” Her favorite project so far? The Harry Potter inspired sweaters she made for her and her sister.

“We both have always loved Harry Potter so it was only a matter of time until we got our own Weasley sweaters,” Lawlor said. “And after all, it’s much cheaper to make it than to buy them and this way I can customize them to fit us perfectly.”

Next time you find yourself wondering what to do next when the hours inside seem endless, take a note from these students– pick up a paint brush, get outdoors, or knit a garment for a friend. That last episode of Tiger King will still be there when you get back to Netflix.