While every department on the campus of Waynesburg University was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be argued that one department was hit the hardest. The Department of Fine Arts was impacted in unforeseen ways, but found ways to adapt to the new circumstances. This year’s senior class was the first to survive a global pandemic the entirety of their senior year.
On the band and choir side of the department, events had to be moved outside when possible to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, many of which were organized by seniors.
On the art side, seniors put on their senior art exhibits were able to record videos of their galleries to be posted online for those outside of the campus community.
“I just was so impressed with all the hard work they put into making things work, both in person and online,” Andrew Heisey, chair of the Fine Arts Department said.
And although their senior year probably did not go as they planned, the seniors leaving the department will always remember this year as one for the books.
“I am impressed with the senior class,” Heisey said. “No other group of students has had to pivot like they have. What they were forced to do this year pushed education forward in a way that never would have happened if it wasn’t for COVID.”
Heisey said that because of COVID-19, the senior class will be leaving Waynesburg University with skills that most students won’t have.
“They’ll know how to be flexible. They’ll know how to make a quick change if somethings not working,” Heisey said. “That’s just common with what everybody had to do this year.”
Heisey said that out of all the seniors in the Fine Arts Department, four students majorly stood out during their time at Waynesburg; Clare Rainone, Lily Yoder, and Qwinlyn Kelley.
When Rainone arrived at Waynesburg, Heisey said she was energetic and excited to be on campus and in the department.
In an email interview, Rainone said, “Funny story: I had very specific options due to my tuition exchange and I flipped a coin between two of them. It worked out fairly well. I was accepted by a number of universities, but not all of them honored the tuition exchange. I probably would have gone here regardless of the coin toss as it was closer to home and a five-hour drive on the holidays sounded awful. Waynesburg is only an hour away from my hometown.”
According to Heisey, the perks of Waynesburg being a smaller school impacted Rainone’s education greatly.
“We can make things fit a student that you couldn’t do elsewhere,” Heisey said. “She was really into animation, and while we don’t have an animation degree, we were able to do a lot of opportunities where she could take a class with me and we did a lot of independent classes where she could investigate animation.”
“I’m not worried about her. Sometimes there’s certain seniors where I don’t know where they’re gonna go or how things are gonna work. I don’t know where she’s gonna go, but I’m not concerned,” Heisey said.
Heisey said this because of all of the commissioned pieces Rainone has completed.
“She’s already thinking business and she’s doing a great job,” Heisey said.
After college Rainone hopes to work in a small animation or gaming studio.
“A number of them are trying to get away from the toxic radiation chamber that is Hollywood. I’ve been applying to some of those small groups,” Rainone said. “As long as I get to make art that helps people and in turn glorifies our Creator, I’ll be happy.”
According to Heisey, Yoder is a student who is introverted, which is unusual for an art major. She chose Waynesburg University because of fliers in her high school and her passion for art.
“I’ve always just enjoyed creating art and that’s what I wanted to do for a career,” Yoder said.
Before entering college, Yoder would mostly do drawings and paintings, and most of her recent artwork still reflects those past pieces.
“Throughout these four years, she has really grown. She’s very gifted, but she’s not always good at promoting herself,” Heisey said. “I’ve seen her, especially this year, really be able to produce some quality work.”
Yoder enjoys producing what are called zen tangles and coloring books. She even produced a coloring book based on Waynesburg University.
“I really like drawing the patterns. It’s stress relieving for me,” Yoder commented about zen tangles.
“I mean, who comes up with a coloring book like this? Well she did. Because it’s what she’s passionate about,” Heisey said.
Yoder’s proudest moment at Waynesburg University was having her senior show.
“It kind of starts to hit you. It’s really helpful to know how to hang a show and things that go into it,” Yoder said.
Yoder said that after college, her dream would be to become an illustrator for children’s books or adult coloring books.
Kelley, a music ministry major, is an amazing student to Heisey.
“She is a godly woman and I love her to death,” Heisey said.
Kelley had never even heard of Waynesburg University before her senior year of high school. She thought she was going to pursue a major in counseling or music therapy, but a free college application provided by the school swayed her college decision.
“I knew it was in Pennsylvania. My moms from Pittsburgh and I’m from Virginia so it was pretty far away,” Kelley said.
Having family in the Pittsburgh area helped with the college decision.
After hearing back from the college application and seeing the scholarships that were offered through the school, Kelley picked Waynesburg as her college.
“I had that feeling and the piece inside of me like this is where I need to be,” Kelley said.
During her time at Waynesburg, Kelley switched from a major in psychology and a minor in music to a music ministry major.
“I didn’t believe I could fully be my authentic self being a counselor,” Kelley said. “God was really speaking to me. He was like telling me ‘You need to change your major.’ So I changed my major to music ministry and do not regret it one bit.”
Kelley said this career path won’t be one she will regret and that she can use her talents to be her authentic self.
Heisey said he was impressed with the way Kelley uses her musical skills and leads the worship team. He is impressed by how she has such a godly spirit and wants to share it with others.
After college, Kelley has the desire to continue music ministry in a church.
“I’m so excited to see where she goes,” Heisey said.
This article along with many others are included in the 2021 Commencement Issue of The Yellow Jacket. The full print layout version can be viewed here.